All across the country, there are many small towns that are working to improve their Main Streets. Many small towns face the challenge of overcoming depression and dilapidation. Their economies often are not what they once were. In some areas, towns are fighting back.
Recently, the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed its top ten Great American Main Streets. Interestingly, two Pennsylvania cities were included in the countdown: Gettysburg and Bedford.
I had the chance to visit Bedford this summer with several other Youth Philanthropy Interns to acquire interviews for a radio documentary. That piece can be found here. As I was there, I loved the feeling of community that washed over the entire area. Everyone was incredibly friendly and there was a fascinating sense of “togetherness” between all of the businesses.
Bedford, however, wasn’t always like this. Only a decade ago, the downtown area was full of dilapidated and run-down buildings. Many store fronts were empty and there was no sign that any new businesses planned to come to the area. So, a group of business owners came together to make a change. They used a mix of state funding and their own money to fix up the buildings, the sidewalks and “Streetscape” the area, eventually creating an organization known as Downtown Bedford, Inc.
The result? A vibrant small town with a lot to offer visitors and locals alike. Bedford prides itself on providing many unique stores and restaurants. During our visit, this was clear. There are stores like Bedford Candies and Backstage Alpaca Shop. Coupled with the Revitalization effort, the Omni Bedford Springs Resort is often cited as a major proponent of the revitalization effort. Businesses and the Bedford Springs Resort promote each other, leading to very beneficial relationships.
That’s really the core of Bedford: partnerships. Everyone in the area seemed ready and willing to lend a helping hand. Again and again we heard volunteers asking about what they could do to get a new business off the ground or about businesses and locals rallying around someone and their business to keep it going. Not many places have quite the same sense of community as Bedford does. And, no matter who you talk to about it, they all say the same things: how important the partnerships are and how helpful everyone is. It really is an easy town to fall in love with.
— Kaitlyn Thomas, CFA Youth Philanthropy Intern