Supporting local businesses — even during construction — is the Main Thing in Zeeland

Nobody likes construction, but they like the results.

As the city of Zeeland enters its second summer of construction along Main Avenue, officials are making sure customers still support their favorite local businesses with an awareness campaign called “The Main Thing.”

“‘The Main Thing’ is our version of a ‘pardon our dust’ campaign,” City Marketing Director Abby deRoo says. “As soon as we have a hard winter, we will appreciate the heated sidewalks.”

At the end of the Main Avenue project, Zeeland will be equipped with snowmelted sidewalks spanning from State Street to Maple Street and a new streetscape throughout the four blocks of downtown. Last summer, Zeeland  completed the two eastern blocks, between Church and Maple streets. The city broke ground  on the block of Main between Church and Elm April 8. The project will end this fall, with the western-most block, between  Elm and State.  

No more snow and salt

Snow and the salt used to keep it under control causes residual damage when tracked into buildings, forces businesses to shovel mid-day, and discourages customers from venturing out to shop or eat.

The city has absorbed the $10.2 million construction cost, but businesses within the special assessment district will pay a portion of the operating costs in years to come.

Photo by Andrea Goodell

The awareness campaign — in line with the city’s usual catchy, playful, and informative style — is a way to bring exposure to the fact that important life is happening on Main Avenue even when it is hard to get to, deRoo says.

“I think they’re doing whatever they can to make it still convenient for people,” says Alyse Whitman, owner of Mom and Baby Again, 121 E. Main Ave.

Throughout the project, the city’s marketing department will emphasize that “Downtown is the Main Thing.” 

There's parking?!

The city will use its social media platforms and website to reiterate its message and encourage downtown customers  to stay loyal to their local businesses during the construction season with subcategories such as  “Eat Local, That’s the Main Thing,” “Shop Local, That’s the Main Thing” and “Feel the Zeel, That’s the Main Thing.”

“We still have use of our front door,” says owner of Drip Coffee at 150 E. Main Ave., Shelley Miller. “I do anticipate it getting a lot worse when the sidewalks eventually shut down.”

So far, the decrease in foot traffic hasn’t been as bad as she thought it would be, Miller says. She has posted signs and handed out flyers reminding people of the parking available behind her Main Avenue storefront.

“I’m shocked at how many people say ‘oh, there’s parking back there?’” she says.

Customers should use businesses’ back entrances during the construction. Parking maps available at all downtown businesses show available  parking lots, since sections of on-street parking will be unavailable during the construction project.

“Construction is not easy and has never claimed to be easy,” deRoo says. “We can’t have progress without going through hard times.”

The Main Thing campaign materials can be found on the city’s website MAIN-THING

Photos by Andrea Goodell
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