Survey Says Strasburg Residents Shop Local

Public Forum Unveils Many Untapped Opportunities

Posted: August 4, 2014

STRASBURG — Complete results of the Downtown Strasburg Revitalization Survey were disclosed at a public forum last week. From the 638 responses gathered since the survey’s launch in late June, 202 paper surveys and 436 online, planners were able to detect spending and tourism trends in and around Strasburg.

Downtown Strasburg conducted the six-question survey as part of the town’s ongoing economic revitalization and downtown development projects. The survey was open to everyone but roughly 81 percent of responders claimed to live in Strasburg.

The biggest in-town draws for locals are grocery shopping, takeout and banking or financial services.

More than 55 percent of responders never come to Strasburg for school, 65.8 percent never come for work and 79 percent pass through town on a weekly basis. Over half said they have never been to art galleries and shows in town, and half of responders have only been to the Strasburg Emporium a few times.

Strasburg’s biggest competition for services and leisure is Winchester, responders indicated. The city drew the largest numbers for apparel, furniture and sporting goods shopping. It also drew the largest market for medical services and sit-down dining in the survey.

Conducting the town’s market study, Kelly Hall and Craig Wilson, of the Community of Community Planning Partners in Richmond, led the public forum’s discussion. Hall asked residents what they thought would draw more people to Strasburg and which markets could be untapped.

“Dancing, that’s the niche to be filled,” she said.

Winchester draws 52 percent of responders for entertainment and music. Strasburg resident and musician Bill Foster argued that the town has live music four nights a week, but others present argued the selection is geared toward the town’s aging population.

Another concern was downtown’s early “closing time.” Councilman Seth Newman said Strasburg loses its small-town charm at 5 p.m. when businesses close.

Kate Sowers, 50, of Toms Brook complained about the inconsistency of some businesses.

“The problem that I hear are the hours,” Sowers said.

“If you want something at 1 p.m. you’ve got to go north or south,” Foster, 67, agreed regarding weekend store hours.

While groceries were the biggest magnet in town for residents, many drive elsewhere for their weekly shopping. People at the forum said an “anchor store,” such as Whole Foods or Wegmans, with better quality items than the local Food Lion would be a big draw.

Responders were asked what they would most like to see developed in a public downtown space. A farmers market was the clear winner, followed by a performance space and a playground or recreational facility.

But Foster, who has lived in Strasburg for eight years, doubted the success of a farmers market in Strasburg.

“I’ve seen a lot of farmers markets come and go,” he said.

Newman said the market would need a designated, covered space and a committed organization to run it.

Kimberly Murray, Strasburg Economic Development and Planning manager, supported his point.

“It takes a lot to organize and run a farmers market. It’s not as easy as it sounds,” she said.

On Sept. 11, Hall and Wilson will present the design portion of their study, made possible with a $35,000 Community Development block grant for Strasburg by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.

For the full survey results, contact the Strasburg Economic Development and Planning office at 540-465-9197.

Contact Amelia Brust at 574-6293 or abrust@dnronline.com



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