Residents express concern, hope for town’s economy

From right, Cathy Donald, owner of Valley Sports Connection; Mark Linski, owner of New Market Grocery; Randy Andes, owner of Andy's Hardware; and Karla Kokkonen, owner of The Home Store, listen on Monday as Councilman-elect Peter Hughes discusses the state of business in New Market. Nathan Budryk/Daily

NEW MARKET – Dozens packed into the town’s municipal building Monday to hear a forum discussion led by councilman-elect Peter Hughes regarding the state of business in New Market. The forum also served as a meeting for the town’s Tourism, Economic Development and Historic Preservation Committee.

A panel comprised of local businesspeople discussed trends, challenges and suggestions for business in the town, as well as the potential impact of a forthcoming Wal-Mart in Timberville.

Council Tim Palmer was positive about potential outcomes of the meeting.

“I am very encouraged and pleased to see so many people here this evening,” Palmer said. “It’s an indication that the people here in New Market are basically aware of what can be attained through a coordinated effort in our town. We have some good people with good ideas.”

Councilman-elect Hughes expressed his concern and his ambitions for what the discussions could bring to the town.

“The topic of economic development became important to me when anchor retail businesses began leaving us,” Hughes said. “I then began to notice there are a lot of empty storefronts and a lot of for sale, rent and lease signs… Is there anything we can do to address these issues?

“I am convinced that all parties including the town council, the chamber and all New Market residents need to be involved in identifying the problems as well as developing some ways to address the success of our businesses.”

The addressing of the success of those businesses came in the form of a panel of local businesspeople. Cathy Donald, owner of Valley Sports Connection; Mark Linski, owner of New Market Grocery; Randy Andes, owner of Randy’s Hardware; and Karla Kokkonen, owner of The Home Store, were present to speak on New Market’s business options.

One way of helping the local economy, suggested by Kokkonen, was a solidarity-based approach, in which residents of the town were asked to consciously shop locally.

“Look at the people who are in this room,” she said. “What if in the next seven days, you each went into two stores in New Market? And then, if you told two of your friends, the trend would start and that would be the start of what we’re all trying to do.”

The effects of the future Wal-Mart in Timberville were a prevalent topic, and were addressed by Donald.

“Of course it’s going to be an issue,” she said. “The more that’s in Timberville, the less reason for people to stop here. … Why stop in New Market when you can do it all there?”

Businesspeople said they have started adapting to Wal-Mart by removing items from their stores that are also sold in Wal-Mart to try to separate themselves from one of the world’s largest retailers.

Mayor Douglas Bradley recommended the idea of a marketing firm evaluation.

“I really think we should invest in a marketing firm – have them come in and do a survey of the population of the business we have and what business they would recommend to us or what we can do with our existing business,” he said. “I think that’s very important.”

Councilman-elect Hughes said he plans for Monday’s forum to be a continuing discussion among the town’s residents and government. Workshops are planned for those interested in going into business in the town or owners of existing businesses looking for feedback. A calendar of events related to these discussions can be found on the town’s website at http://www.newmarketvirginia.com.

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com