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Survey reveals Strasburg residents' shopping habits

By Alex Bridges

Survey says: Strasburg residents do some shopping in town, participate in local activities and many want a farmers market.

A survey conducted by the town to gather input from residents and visitors gave Strasburg officials a chance to gauge the community's needs and interests. Strasburg held a public input session Tuesday, led by representatives of Community Planning Partners, to release findings from the survey. About 20 people attended the session.

Strasburg Economic Development and Planning Manager Kimberly Murray and the consulting firm representatives pointed out the high amount of participation in the survey. The town received 638 responses - 436 via the Internet and social media and 202 from the paper surveys included in local water bills.

"I thought the results of this survey were sending a very clear message to our elected officials that the community cares and loves Strasburg and wants to make it better," Murray said Wednesday, adding that the data show respondents want more activities in town.

Murray said she had never seen in her career participation in a survey aimed at gauging what people wanted to see in their community.

Of the people who responded, 87 percent live in the 22657 zip code and 81.5 percent say they live in Strasburg. Nearly 11 percent of the respondents said they visit Strasburg three or more times a week.

Kelly Hall, with Community Planning Partners, talked to the audience about what the results mean and sought more input from the group. A few people often chimed in, giving Hall some insight into their impressions of why certain numbers showed up in the data.

For instance, the data showed that 64.2 percent of the respondents said they do their weekly grocery shopping in Strasburg rather than go out of town. Some audience members said these people usually do their basic shopping at the Food Lion but probably go out of town to other stores for other needs. Audience members said residents go to Front Royal, Stephens City, Winchester or Woodstock to shop.

Hall also sought input from the audience on what the town doesn't have that maybe it should. Results of the survey showed respondents often go out of town for clothing, furniture, sporting goods, entertainment, business and legal services, and for medical services such as a hospital and supplies. Audience members said the reason for many of these market "leaks" is that Strasburg lacks any of the large chain stores that sell these items.

Craig Wilson, also with Community Planning Partners, then asked the audience questions about revitalizing downtown by focusing on Strasburg's attributes. He noted that http://www.tripadvisor.com lists Shenandoah Valley Artworks as No. 1 out of 74 shopping attractions in the region. Audience members credited owner Marcy McCann for the gallery's popularity. The Emporium also ranked high on the website, Wilson noted. Audience members agreed the indoor market of antique dealers serves as the downtown anchor.

The town will post the detailed results of the survey on its website, http://www.strasburgva.com, in the next week or so and provide links to the information on its Facebook page, Murray said. Community Planning Partners and the town have scheduled design charets for noon and 7 p.m. Sept. 11 to allow the public another chance to participate in the revitalization effort looking specifically public space downtown. Murray said she hopes to see a good turnout for the charet.

The results of survey questions on the potential development of public space downtown showed that most respondents want it to be a farmers market. Others said it should be used as either a performance space, for recreation or a playground. While a farmers market has support, some audience members said such enterprises have come and gone, largely because they are only held outside in various locations. An indoor, year-round market may fare better, some people said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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