Downtown Zeeland looks for hope at the corner of Strength and Main

Local shops and restaurants are more than brick and mortar or even places to grab a bite or to shop. They are the people and their stories.

Zeeland is sharing those stories this month during its Strength and Main campaign.

The promotion highlights the personal stories of our downtown shopkeepers and restaurateurs with social media, a printed newspaper, and giveaways.

“We hope the stories inspire readers and that customers will fall in love with these business owners all over again or seek them out for the very first time,” Zeeland Marketing Director Abby deRoo says.

The campaign asks customers — old and new — to show up and show their support for local businesses.

Giveaways

An interactive social media campaign beginning Feb. 2 and running 10 days will challenge participants to support local and post photos for a chance to win prizes, culminating in a $500 grand prize.

Giveaways will be available on the department’s Facebook, facebook.com/feelthezeel, and @feel-the-zeel on Instagram.

Free temporary tattoos and stickers are available in a variety of stores downtown.

Spreading the news

The Strength and Main Newspaper will be mailed locally, but it will also be available at the city’s downtown businesses and is available online cityofzeeland.com/strengthandmain.

Shane Hammer is the fourth generation of his family to operate Frank's restaurant in downtown Zeeland.

“This pandemic has made people really appreciate the work that small businesses do," he says in the newspaper story that highlights him and the restaurant his great grandparents started.

"Shane represents not only the family business, but the family disposition – a mixture of charisma, attitude, tough skin and a heart of gold. Customers clamor over the equally infamous olive burger and tell-it-like-it-is philosophy they have come to count on at Frank’s," the article states.

The newspaper shares the stories of the people behind downtown stores and restaurants. The tagline of “We pull together at the corner of Strength and Main” is everywhere across the campaign. 

Zeeland's Strength and Main ad campaign asks customers to pull together for downtown businesses

A video at the website also highlights many of the downtown business owners.

The traditional storefronts were among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing restrictions. Restaurants were allowed to reopen Feb. 1 with limited capacity and other precautions.

Foot traffic

Retail stores and restaurants rely on spontaneous foot traffic, but that isn’t happening these days. Habits have changed, deRoo says. Downtown events have been canceled for months; people are working from home; many are anxious about doing business in person.

Retail stores and restaurants have had the longest running restrictions and limited occupancy.

The Strength and Main campaign’s tone is different from the upbeat “Feel the Zeel” branding the city of Zeeland is known for, deRoo says. 

It strikes more of a sincere tone with honest stories of what it takes to operate a small business on Zeeland’s Main Avenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re typically cheerful and full of ‘zeel,’ but it hasn’t been a cheerful year. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s been a bad year either,” she says.
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