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Michele Reeves offered a glimpse into what she's finding out about Canby's downtown and how it can be helped

Revitalization consultant Michele Reeves gave a report on what is needed to turn Canby's downtown around during a presentation on Sept. 25.

Her rapid fire and energetic presentation managed to hook her audience and appeared to inspire them as she mentioned goals and provided tools to change the city's downtown. The goal is to encourage people to walk around and visit stores.

She pointed out that the most words used to describe the downtown sector in the surveys she received, such as "boring" and "depressing," equaled what people saw and how they felt about downtown. Then she offered some tools needed to change these perceptions.

Using the framework of her survey, she explained the changes necessary to make downtown Canby an exciting place to be. She said that Canby has some of the building blocks necessary to get people to circulate the area. The roads, with the exception of Highway 99E, are good, she said, especially three cross streets — Ivy, Grant and Elm.

"There's obviously a love of beige in town," Reeves said, noting that while there's a mix of eras in the buildings, there's also the backs and sides of buildings that have nothing on them, providing a boring beige scene. Downtown needs color, she said, showing how simple, as well as complex and vibrant colors manage to pep up buildings causing people to stop and look and talk.

Another problem is windows, she said. Many of the stores downtown have dark windows.

People need to see inside the window. They are curious and if they see something exciting or colorful it will intrigue them rather than seeing themselves staring back.

She showed pictures of an avant garde gallery and a travel agency window, both of which, she said, begged people to come inside with a display of color through a large, clear picture window. Another photo showed the inside of a barber shop that was clean and bright and full of people.

"No one reads signs — show don't tell," she said, encouraging people to take the darker film off the windows or spend about $500 and buy a new clear window so people on the outside can see what's going on the inside.

Another way to change darker windows is to place track lighting inside the window frame, which will make them clearer. Once this has been done people can see through the window, the merchandising design and typically it will tempt them to enter the store.

Another issue she pointed to was signage. Reeves noted that many of the signs are boring, especially the red blinking "open" sign that almost every store in town is using. She suggested showing people that a store is open by having windows that people can see through, that aren't dark and reflect only the outside.

Three ways to increase business and traffic is through events, sales and marketing ad campaigns. This ties into the windows.

People like to look in windows to see something exciting or beautiful or unexplained. Those types of things encourage people to enter a store, especially if the merchandising or action is three-dimensional.

Islands in the store with various painted boxes on them, or a merchandised design of clothes or accessories that catch the eye will bring people in as opposed to a red blinking sign that says open or a design that doesn't grab attention.

She cautioned that a business owner should not try to make all these changes at once.

"Take small bites," she said, to make it easy on yourself. Once you've changed the windows or relit them, then it's time to merchandise that window display or take the next step.

Small changes like clearer windows or brightening lighting will not just help, they will elevate the mood of the business and encourage customers to drop by, she added. It also makes a difference getting rid of fluorescent lighting, which is really a harsh light for people.

Reeves also suggested using agriculture.

She liked the idea of an agriculture store and showed several business located in rural areas doing that. Offering many small businesses inside a shelter that can sell quilts, house and garden plants, unique items and so forth will encourage visitors.

Her idea is to start a store made up of different small shops such as candy shops, meat markets, ice cream, sandwiches, drinks and other items that are all agriculture-related and found in one building.

All of these wrapped up in the yummy smell of cooking food. After all Canby is located in a rural setting but does have a lot of small businesses and agriculture around to support it.

And, that brings us to the old library's use as an incubator where businesses start small and move elsewhere after they've been growing and getting too big to stay there.

Reeves will send her finished report, which she explained is much longer than her presentation, to the city in a couple of weeks, and plans to meet with Canby again in October or November.


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