Editorial: Bringing business to businesses on Chester’s Green

Last week, The Chester Telegraph ran a series about Chester’s Green, what makes it different from other Vermont greens — it’s characterized by its businesses — and what can be done to ensure the success of businesses along The Green and in Chester as a whole.

Over the years, The Green has faced its share of challenges in keeping some shops open and businesses thriving. In the past year, several shops closed, their darkened windows creating a pall.

What suggestions do you have for bringing visitors to Chester?

Bob Flint of the Springfield Regional Development Corp. believes that an important component to success is to drive more traffic to The Green from Route 103 and to find a way to make traffic coming from the west on Route 11 stop in Chester.

On a tiny scale, Chester’s situation reminds us of the Skyway that was built to reduce traffic in downtown Buffalo, N.Y.  It was successful in reducing traffic, but it also reduced visitation thus depressing an already depressed area. It also took away one of Buffalo’s great attractions — its beautiful Lake Erie waterfront.  Our version of the Skyway is Route 103 — without the view.

Route 103 supports a huge amount of traffic, as any business or home along it can attest. Wood carver Barre Pinske, whose home and shop are firmly planted on Route 103/Depot Street, refers to it as a “river of gold.”  The old Chester Farmers Market was located on Route 103 for that very reason — to capture the traffic that inevitably ignores the split at Depot/Maple streets and continues following Route 103 left — away from The Green — and out of town.

Diverting the River of Gold

So how do you divert some of that river to The Green and capture some of that gold? Pinske’s suggestion that a Chester visitors center be constructed at the Route 103 fairgrounds next to the American Legion (should it come to fruition) is a fine idea to direct people to go straight into Chester.

But, immediately, what is needed is better signs, created in Chester and for Chester.

Maple Street to the left, Depot Street on the right with state route signs on an island. Click to enlarge. Photo by Cynthia Prairie.

Maple Street to the left, Depot Street on the right with state route signs on an island. Click to enlarge. Photo by Cynthia Prairie.

As it stands,  state signage sends traffic away from The Green. The little island of signs at the intersection of Depot and Maple streets is an uninviting eyesore that pushes people traveling from the north on Route 103  to go continue on 103 — unless they know better.

The state needs to clean it up, dress it up and allow the town to put up two handsome and artistic signs: One directing drivers to the shops and restaurants on The Green by turning right; the other telling drivers that there are also fine Chester shops and restaurants if they continue south on Route 103.

Once on Main Street, the problem gets a bit more troublesome. What Barrett and Valley Realtor Joan Morey calls Chester’s “face” — The Green — is easy to overlook. Some people drive right past in either direction and never realize that The Green and the shops are there. The Green is easily missed because it is flush with the street and because of the Victorians across from it are so eye-catching. (Thanks to Nancy Rugg of the Fullerton Inn and the Overture to Christmas folks, The Green looked spectacular dressed in white lights this past winter.)

From either direction, it is obvious that The Green needs a heavy dose of artistic landscaping.  The trees need major pruning and unsightly dead branches removed. Raised beds created and planted with perennials would add more visual appeal and the concrete seating should be replaced with benches more appropriate to a Victorian village.

There is even more that can be done to turn Chester’s Green into a more noticeable and enjoyable gathering place.  What are your ideas for attracting businesses to Chester and making The Green a more inviting place? Please feel free to comment below and let’s get some discussion going.

©The Chester Telegraph – 2014

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Filed Under: CommentaryTelegraph Editorial

About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Kathy says:

    The more I read Barre Pinske’s argument for a festival ground the more I am swayed to support his position. Chester needs tourists and the money they bring to town.

    Creation of a festival ground, which could perhaps support not only all manner of fairs, but equestrian events, concerts and shows under the stars, would secure Chester as a destination. While other towns have fairgrounds, we have the opportunity to create something that could elevate fairgrounds to a higher level.

    Look at the Hyannis Cape Cod Melody Tent: http://www.melodytent.org/

    It is a seasonal not-for-profit theater that brings in some amazing acts and whose past performers list is a veritable who’s who of well-known talent and celebrities. The Melody Tent is just that — a large tent that is erected at the start of the season and taken down at the end.

    Entice some veteran bands of the ’60s & ’70s to perform; many are playing small venues at this point in their careers and the demographic they appeal to has a decent amount of disposable income.

    When the weather turns cold, create an ice rink and invite NHL farm teams to hold outdoor hockey (old school!) games on the ice. The NY Rangers have done this several times with an amazing turn out. How’s about courting the Bruins?

    Chester has a beautiful blank canvas that should be respected and developed in a way that will beautify and support the community while remaining as close to its natural state as possible.

  2. Barre Pinske says:

    The core idea behind the Chester festival grounds is similar to a convention center in a bigger city. A convention, like the Flower Show in Hartford, CT, brings people like me to that city. People bring dollars in room rentals and meals. At the moment, we have no roadside visible flat ground to host events. We are a pass-through town. Roadside will allow for easy promotion, split-second decision making to stop and see what’s going on and easy parking.

    If we can establish some form of interesting shelter, even just a big roof, it will reflect positively on our community as being forward thinking and caring about our guests. We have a real opportunity to create something interesting here that could house many things and reflect positively on our town. All can be done very inexpensively. … Should we not be doing all we can to have income coming into our town?

    Getting people to spend some time in our town will help put meat on the table. If we become a destination, more homes will be purchased by people who feel confident they can make a living here. I am not advocating wholesale changes to our town but I would like to see more folks living here that are actually earning a living because when extra money can get passed around you have a functioning economy.

    I don’t think we have that now. There is a lot of holding into dollars like it’s the last one anyone is going to get and that is not how an economy works. Everyone needs to keep in mind that government does not generate any income on its own. It all comes from businesses. Doing a few small things like cool events at off-peak times can put people in rooms, shops and fill seats in restaurants.

    Consistency helps everything. A consistent series of quality, interesting events can create some consistency a festival grounds can facilitate that just like a convention center. People get out of the city, have some fun in the woods, spend some money because they want too, take home a gift that acts as a reminder of the fun they had and no one gets hurt. We have a chance to enrich our lives and others through culture like it has been done since the beginning of time. We need flat ground, shelter at some point and quality events. That’s it.

  3. Wayne says:

    Everyone keeps talking about all these wonderful places to eat. Has there been a bunch of new restaurants that have come to town while I wasn’t looking? There are a couple nice places in town, but I’m thinking of some place that maybe a local like myself and family could frequent. I suppose that could also be relevant to someone passing through.

    The Fullerton isn’t what someone passing by would immediately think, “Oh! Let’s eat there!” And unless you’ve been in the pub before and realize that kids are welcome there, you probably wouldn’t think to stop with your family. Lisai’s has about the only quick and great food, but again, who would think that passing by?

    Most of the eating establishments have left. Get some back, somehow, and maybe more people would have a reason to stay around.

  4. Karen Trombley says:

    A visitors center on the 103 Fairgrounds, ? , really ???? The folks coming in to town from that end are going way too fast to even notice another building or business. The wild traffic down there is overwhelming, they are all in such a hurry to get to their destination ( not Chester ) that nothing will slow them up…unless VSP happens to be around.
    Must also comment about the “eyesore” at the corner of Depot and Maple…personally, I think that is a rather pleasant eyesore compared to other REAL eyesores in and around town.
    Moving on to the Green…yes, it is a lovely place to watch the world go by, see the damage that kids do to the gazebo, enjoy stepping over the cigarette butts and trash that somehow can’t make it to the trash cans.
    Raised beds, more seating….I can only see that as yet another step to push the Fall Festival to another location where the beer and wine can flow more freely.
    As for Chester attracting businesses…why bother, oh, yes, unless it is a business that can be hidden because it doesn’t project the quaintness of the community. People who have no history with Chester and its people are the same ones that take lead to continue to make Chester a lovely little drive through bedroom community. Good Luck !

  5. Diana Ashworth says:

    I’ve seen a lot of towns put a sign up pointing to their greens that say HISTORIC DISTRICT. I always take it to mean that I will see lovely houses and quaint shops. That, and the suggested raised beds created and planted with perennials, and wooden benches would really bring out the Victorian appeal. We already have a nice visitors center across from The Green. If that was manned and there were brochures or a map of the stores in town, and a walking map of Chester, that would really help. Perhaps some of the town’s historians could provide some interesting historical tidbits about some of the houses to make the walking tour more enjoyable. If I were a tourist in town I would be in heaven. Quaint shops, great places to eat, interesting history, a delightful Green with benches to rest, B & B’s – what a great way to spend the day or two in town.