A look back at 2020…
A note from our Executive Director
Suffice to say, 2020 was nothing like we could ever have imagined. Who could have predicted a global pandemic would bring everything to a screeching halt. St. Patrick’s Day 2020 will be one I will never forget as I quietly cried in my car while driving through our downtown that evening—what should have been one of the busiest nights of the year for our bars and restaurants—everything sat quiet and dark, not a parked vehicle or person in sight. “Would they all make it through this…” was rolling through my mind as so much was yet unknown. It was the first day of the statewide shut down for all non-essential businesses in Illinois. As it is nearly a year later, to the day, that I write this, I’m beyond happy to say that while we’re not out of the woods yet, none of our downtown businesses have permanently closed during since time.
Sauk Valley Strong
At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, local downtown business owner Dr. Joe Schneiderbauer of Live Better Chiropractic approached Sterling Main Street and the three area Chambers with an idea to show our resilience and strength amid the COVID-19 Pandemic. In a very short period of time, the Sauk Valley Strong T-shirt Campaign began. Over 600 t-shirts were sold; $5,000 in microgrants were awarded to area small businesses, and another $1,600 used to purchase gift cards from the 51 small businesses who signed on to help promote the campaign.
Other COVID-19 Relief
The ups and downs of business restrictions were a true test of the resilience of our small businesses. Hardest hit were our bars & restaurants as restrictions constantly changed. As outside dining was made an option, we quickly moved our event picnic tables out of storage, with the help of the City’s public works staff, and set up Dale Park for outside dining to help the nearby restaurants. As a result of the success of the temporary tables, and some 2020 year-end donations, Main Street has committed to having 3 permanent picnic tables installed in Dale Park in 2021.
In the later part of 2020, Sterling Main Street partnered with Sterling Today, Inc. to award $46,000 in grants over the course of 3 months to help our downtown bars and restaurants who remained in compliance with the strict resurgence mitigation restrictions the State had put in place.
From information on PPP Loans, BIG Grants and other Federal, State and local relief opportunities, to smaller scale options offered by Main Street America and other small business partners, keeping our downtown businesses informed and connected to the resources needed has been ongoing throughout.
Along with everything else, the Twin City Farmers Market was asked to close at the onset of the pandemic. Construction on the Sterling Marketplace wrapped up in May 2020 and we were grateful to be able to utilize the space to reopen the Market as spring produce came on.
While our 2020 event schedule was pretty much wiped out, we ramped up our efforts in other areas. Our downtown beautification activities continued as tulips & daffodils popped up in the spring and we got experimental with our lamppost flower baskets. Façade Grant projects were wrapped up at Lisa’s Brickhouse and D&E Furniture and a new one began at True Smiles. Our Economic Vitality and Promotions committees have been working tirelessly on new initiatives to help with post-Covid recovery efforts.
Goals for 2021 and beyond…
- Shine a spotlight on the businesses of Downtown Sterling and their owners, telling their stories for all to get to know them better.
- Continue to support our downtown businesses by keeping them connected with resources available as economic recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue.
- Bring back core community events and activities such as our annual Car Show, Hot Dog Day, Hops on the Rock and Seasonal Sights & Sounds in a way that is safe for all.
- Continue to grow the Twin City Farmers Market for both vendors and customers, making it a premier agritourism destination in the Sauk Valley.
- Continue to promote our Façade Grant program to property owners within the Downtown Business District.
- Continue to grow in our working relationship with the City of Sterling and assist wherever possible in the implementation of its Strategic and Riverfront Redevelopment Plans and the revitalization of the Downtown Business District.
- Continue to partner with Sterling Today, Inc., the Greater Sterling Development Corp., Sauk Valley Area Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Development Center at Sauk Valley Community College, and other community partners in economic development activities for the betterment of the greater Sterling area.
In March 2021, our office relocated to a new space. We are now at 15 East 3rd Street in Downtown Sterling. Working with the property owner, Sterling Today, Inc., “The Sanborn Building” is being converted into a shared office/co-working space. Watch for more details on the project coming soon!
Ways to Support Sterling Main Street
In addition to the many specific event-related promotional opportunities supported by your sponsorship contributions, Sterling Main Street has a number of ongoing programs and revitalization efforts for which funding is also needed. Your unrestricted Partnership Contributions will be used to help support these activities as well as specific events where needed. Partnership opportunities are welcomed from both businesses and individuals.