Town releases survey results

Front Royal has released the results of its online survey of what businesses town residents would like to see come to the area.

The town received 551 responses, about 3.7 percent of the town’s population. The survey asked what types of businesses residents wanted, such as food stores, food services, hardware stores, retail stores and entertainment venues. The results were then turned over to the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority and the Lord Fairfax Community College Small Business Development Center to use in future business recruitment efforts.

Respondents were asked to score each type of business from 2 to -2, with 2 meaning “absolutely needed” and -2 meaning “not wanted.” The scores were then averaged together, with businesses ranking closer to 2 being the most desired and those closer to -2 being least desired.

The businesses that received the most positive responses were sit-down restaurants, clothing stores, bakeries, sporting goods stores and live theater. The businesses with the most negative responses included convenience stores, nail salons, car dealerships, banks and antique stores.

Steve Burke, Front Royal town manager, said he was happy with the number of responses the survey received.

“We’ve done surveys like this in the past about town services and we would receive between 100 to 200 responses,” Burke said. “Of course 551 responses is a small portion of the community, so I’m very happy with how it turned out.”

Broken down by age, two respondents were below the age of 18, 16 were 18 to 21, 170 were 22 to 35, 212 were 36 to 50 and 151 were more than 50 years of age. Home furnishing stores and bakeries tended to skew toward the more than 50 years of age bracket, whereas nightclubs and sports bars appealed to the 18 to 35 bracket.

Burke said by breaking the surveys down by age, it will help businesses looking into Front Royal better understand the area.

“There are definitely market segments new businesses will have to determine in order to advertise and draw them in,” Burke said. “We included the age question in the responses so different businesses can gauge where their market might be in the town.”

Jennifer McDonald, executive director of the EDA, said while the survey does provide a clue into what people in Front Royal want, it does not necessarily mean businesses are interested in moving to town.

“Large retail companies go by your demographics,” McDonald said. “If you don’t meet their criteria in terms of median income, traffic count or whatever they’re looking for, they won’t even look at your area.”

McDonald said the EDA bases most of its business recruitment efforts off a retail study conducted in 2013, which compared Warren County to other counties of similar demographics to see what businesses the county can support in the future.

“We could all say what we want to see here, but in our study, we were trying to get the reality of what could go here,” McDonald said. “I would love to see a Wegman’s here, but we don’t meet all their demographic requirements.”

McDonald said the EDA is actively trying to recruit a clothing store to Front Royal, which received the highest amount of positive responses on the survey.

“We have been trying to find the right fit for that, but it’s not as easy as saying to somebody, ‘Hey, we want your business in our community, so here’s the location you’re going to open in and thank you very much,'” McDonald said.

For more information on the survey results, contact at the Town of Front Royal at 540-635-8007.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com