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The point of return

If 2020 proved anything, it’s that downtowns — communities — have everlasting value. You need look no further than Lock Haven as an example.

Open air concerts to social distance drew hundreds to Main Street per performance and thousands over the course of the summer.

And it hasn’t stopped there. New businesses and shops are opening, going against the norm in many communities ravished by COVID-19.

What gives? It starts with caring … caring for your community, putting your money where your mouth is and then marketing the hell out of your business. Kudos to our entrepreneurs!

It’s followed by tremendous support from local business organizations, fellow retailers, civic and elected leaders … and shoppers!

Downtowns can be the best place to shop. Build that recipe of diverse products and services — of course sprinkled with stores offering stuff people need to buy — and you can drive people through your doors.

That physicial, Hallmark-moment of shopping in quaint little stores after sipping on a lattee at a local coffee shop or enjoying a farm-to-table dinner at a local restaurant brings tremendous fullfillment to residents and visitors, not to mention an economic shot in the arm (pun intended).

The more quaint, the more charming and the more variety of stores, the more downtowns can draw private investment.

It is happening in Lock Haven. It has happened in our larger neighbors, driven to the east by entertainment venues and the natural gas boom about 10 years ago and to the west by a world-class university.

Sadly, it appears many sprawling shopping malls are going by the way side, replaced by the keyboard, mouse and computer screen that affords on-line shopping from the privacy of your home.

But downtowns! Alas, you can watch a show on TV, but it’s nothing like sitting in the front row of the theatre. You can click, click, click and add to your online cart, but it’s nothing like browsing the aisles of a locally-owned and operated store on your Main Street.

Could this era be the point of return for our downtowns? Let’s hope so, because COVID-19 is making most of us rethink and revisit what we value, what we appreciate, what we need.

And there’s nothing like feeling that sense of community.

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