Results of Enterprise retail opportunity study aired

By Katy Nesbitt, The Observer April 21, 2010 03:39 pm

ENTERPRISE — Stacy Green presented her City of Enterprise Retail and Service Marketing Opportunity Study findings to an audience at Stage One April 13.

Green suggested that residents stay positive.

“Stop saying there are no job opportunities,” she said. “Buy yourself a job by starting a business.”

Green said when she moved to Wallowa County in 1996 the lumber mills were closing.

“People say there are no family wage jobs here. The mills are gone and not coming back,” she said.

“When the mills were here, they were a visible, concrete presence of major employment.

“We have more jobs now than when the mills were here,” Green said.

Yet, the argument is that the jobs available don’t offer as high of wages. Green counters that jobs are created.

“We need people here, and we have people here. The heroes of our community should be our business owners.”

Green insists that a lot of the work to create new business starts with Wallowa County’s youth. More students need think about business as a college major or career path to help grow the business district.

Enterprise is designing its version of the national Main Street program. Marya Nowakowski of the city of Enterprise said the USDA has partnered to help small towns enroll in the Main Street program and do research, especially market studies. The city matched $3,000 contributed by the USDA to hire Green to conduct a market study in Enterprise.

Green met with 35 business owners, potential business owners and community leaders to assess the greatest needs to improve the city’s business.

She asked many of them if they had considered starting a business, a second business or relocating and all of them said yes.

“People are thinking. They are using a ‘wait and see’ approach. No one is ready to make a major change or risk, but they have ideas and they will create a domino affect,” she said.

Green listed three new businesses that are helping kick-start the idea process in Enterprise. Deve Wolfe has opened a “pop up” boutique, Live Out Loud, which is a complement to her Wolfe Fleece and Co. store in Joseph. Geneine Taylor and Pat Leach have opened Plush Pizza and Geneine’s Boutique in the same block of Main Street. Gypsy Java, a coffee shop sharing space with Mojo Marketing and Wallowa Valley Network, has met with great success since opening two months ago.

Besides new businesses, expansions are in the works, Green said, including Heavenly’s plan to build indoor seating and Treasure’s preparation to separate its second-hand clothing line from its antiques and move into the store front next door.

A question Green asked her survey participants was, “What used to be here that people miss?” Invariably the response was Radio Shack and Dollar Mart. Wagners and Fashion Corner, women’s clothing boutiques, were also high on the list.

Green said stores in Wallowa County are successful when they do not try and compete with Walmart on price. When a store offers good value and personalized business, they will succeed.

Business owners that are putting out energy, effort and enthusiasm, Green said, are successful. Other keys to success she listed are being open as advertised, providing value, having a marketing strategy, good financial management and being in a competitive niche.

“All anybody cares about is price is not true,” Green said.

Successful local shops have personalized stamps on them. They create an experience that is fun and festive.

“It doesn’t take much to rise above mediocre,” Green said.

In the ongoing effort to create a specific identity for Enterprise, Green said, the city should see itself as where the locals get their goods and services. Unlike Joseph, Enterprise’s economy is not specifically tied to the tourist industry, she said. 

Yet, when tourists come to Wallowa County they often stay in the hotels in Enterprise.  Ideas to link the guests to the businesses during the tourist season are percolating.

“People want to explore, but they need a reason,” Green said.

Green listed some of the buildings in town that still exist in their original function, the OK Theatre, the courthouse and the Carnegie Library.

Guided historical tours will commence this summer, Green said. The city is also in the planning stages of erecting a sign at the courthouse to encourage visitors to stroll down Main Street and discover what Enterprise businesses have to offer.