Vankleek Hill’s tourist information centre is open at a new location this year; the Vankleek Hill Business and Merchant Association (BMA) has leased space inside the Vankleek Hill Creating Centre for July and August.
Summer student Rose Lightle has been hired to staff the centre from Wednesday through Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. She has been on the job for a few weeks and says that a few people per day stop in — definitely a reduction from the usual number of visitors, she notes. Lightle has worked previously as a tour guide at the Higginson Tower.
This year, safety protocols are in place. Visitors are invited to knock at the door at 11 High Street and must wear a mask to go inside. Lightle has a protocol in place and may also step outside to speak with visitors.
Lightle is also taking care of some other business to support the local business association. She is doing daily posts on the Vankleek Hill BMA’s Facebook page (search for mvkh on Facebook). She is updating the master list of businesses with their contact information and is connecting with businesses to ensure they have the opportunity to join the BMA.
This summer, Lightle is visiting business members to take a 360 photo inside their business and will film a short video of business owners. These photos and videos will be shared on social media and made available to the business owners.
The 360 camera is owned by the Vankleek Hill BMA and the camera, along with a tripod, were purchased using funds received from the first round of the Digital Main Street program. The Digital Main Street program provided funds to the BMA to hire a short-term coordinator to assist businesses with grant applications and follow-through, and provided funds for the purchase of a laptop, a 360-degree camera and a printer, along with some promotional costs. The BMA hired a freelance writer to write about the successful applicants from the first funding round and funds were also budgeted to do online promotion of those stories.
Businesses were eligible for up to $2,500 to build or refresh websites, do online marketing, purchase software needed for improving their online business offerings or training for online improvements. The BMA has applied for a second round and is hoping to be approved to permit more businesses to apply.
“The first round was something that we were able to take advantage of, but at the end of the year, we had a short timeline and it is often the busiest time of year for business owners,” said Louise Sproule, president of the Vankleek Hill BMA. She hopes that businesses were aware of the program, as the BMA sent newsletters, had hired coordinator Karen Mingarelli to make personal visits to businesses, posted on its Facebook page, delivered info sheets to businesses and there were free ads and a story about the program published in The Review.
“We are taking advantage of having a summer student to make extra calls for us and inform business owners that we are hoping for approval for this next round. I know that a barrier for the first round seemed to be the eight hours of online training that was a prerequisite for funding applications, but that online training has been reduced to 2.5 hours for this round and we have been told that the geographical rules, previously limiting applications to Main Street businesses, as the Digital Main Street title implies, may be loosened given the understanding that in rural areas, businesses may not necessarily be right on the Main Street, even if they are intrinsically tied to that business community,” said Sproule.
Businesses suffered for two years previous to this due to lengthy construction on High Street, noted Sproule, and this year, COVID-19 has meant that local businesses have taken a hit.
“We are working hard to get the message out about the need to shop local,” Sproule said.
Membership fees for the BMA are $100 per year, or $50 per year for new businesses joining the association. The current executive consists of Sproule, Adele Robert (secretary) (Adele Robert Translations), Miria Baliddawa (treasurer) (The Healing Place), Teresa Bressan (Vankleek Hill Vineyard), Nancy Kaudel (Totem Roasters), Jan Amell (Jan Amell Photography), Natalie Amell (Amell Massage Therapy), Kristina Drake (Cat Creek Communications) and Erin Dawson (Jardin Jade Garden).
To find out more about the Vankleek Hill BMA, visit: www.myvkh.com or send an email to: [email protected].