Archive for Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Jane Pennington no longer director of Downtown Lawrence Inc.

January 5, 2011


The organization that promotes downtown retailers and businesses is without a director, and the reasons aren’t clear.

Jane Pennington confirmed Tuesday evening that she no longer is the director of Downtown Lawrence Inc. But Pennington declined to comment on the reasons behind her departure.

“I don’t think it is in the organization’s best interest for us to air our dirty laundry in the newspaper,” Pennington said.

Mary Cox, president of the Downtown Lawrence Inc. board and an owner of Shark’s Surf Shop, 813 Mass., sent an e-mail to DLI board members Tuesday informing them that Pennington was no longer associated with the organization. She said information about Pennington’s departure would be provided at a board meeting next week. Attempts to reach Cox were not successful Tuesday evening.

Pennington had been the organization’s director for the past three years and had worked to add more events in downtown. During her tenure, Downtown Lawrence added an outdoor film festival, a Busker festival, and recently she had spearheaded the organization of the Downtown Lawrence Arts District and its Final Fridays event.

Dan Hughes, an owner of Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop, 802 Mass., said there have been some concerns that the organization was becoming too geared toward promoting downtown as an entertainment district rather than a shopping district.

“I kind of feel like there has been a shift downtown to an arts and entertainment district,” said Hughes, who had been on the organization’s board until the beginning of this month. “I look at other arts and entertainment districts, and you don’t see a lot of specialty retailers.”

Mark Swanson, an owner of Hobbs, 700 Mass., and a current board member of DLI, said he hopes such a conflict isn’t behind the departure.

“As a retailer, I think the Final Fridays and the art functions that are going on are great things,” Swanson said. “They have provided tremendous atmosphere and energy to downtown. It has been nothing but good for downtown.”

Downtown Lawrence Inc. receives both private membership dues and will receive $42,500 in city funding in 2011.


Richard Heckler 7 years ago

I see Arts as a compliment to a retail district because art attracts people with expendable cash.

The problem with attracting decent new retail is too much retail space and not enough local dollars to support. New retailers will also notice this situation. High dollar rent and too much retail space will not be friendly to new retail. How does Lawrence solve these problems?

The concept of bringing KCMO or Topeka shoppers to shop big box retailers in Lawrence is probably without foundation.

What exactly is entertainment? Too many bars could be a concern.

Mainstreet Mgmt Concept

Too many big box retailers:

Art & Economic Prosperity

Richard Renner 7 years ago

As the promoter and producer of several events downtown I have only good things to say about Jane. She helped us immensely and always had the businesses in mind. Each event we worked on was geared to bringing more people downtown to spend more dollars. How and where they spent them was up to the stores to work with. She effectively got more foot traffic downtown and Lawrence benefited from that. Sorry to see her go.

hail2oldku 7 years ago

“I look at other arts and entertainment districts, and you don’t see a lot of specialty retailers.”

I look at retailers that refuse to stay open during hours when many people who work full time "regular business" hours would be able to shop in their establishments and think 'quit whining about poor sales and big box retailers when you aren't available to allow me to spend my money with you'. I greatly enjoy the busker fest and the movie nights. Too bad the bars and eating establishments are (in general) the only places open for me to make a purchase during those events.

billybrewster1 7 years ago

I looked through the article and didn't notice anyone "whining about poor sales and big box retailers." Maybe I missed it.

But I was curious about how late you think retailers in the Downtown footprint should stay open. The movie nights I think were on Thursdays when most retailers are open until 8PM. The movies started at dusk with entertainment and giveaways beforehand. Were you looking to shop after the movies were done or during them? I'm confused.

And the BuskerFest events were held throughout the day on Friday and well as during the evening hours...times when many retailers were open. Probably plenty of opportunities to shop.

It might be interesting to poll retailers that stayed open late during the Final Fridays events and gauge their success. Maybe people were buying lots. Maybe people were looking at things that they would eventually buy but didn't. Or maybe there were people wandering with their coffee cups just looking at stuff that they were never going to buy. I don't know.

For me, part of the charm of Downtown Lawrence is it's mix of mom-and-pop retailers that can provide great service and value. That is something you don't get at big box stores. And I'd like to point out that I think it's almost exclusively the job of the retailer to turn gawkers into buyers, but by definition, mom-and-pops also have families to go home to, soccer games to watch, recitals to attend, etc. They can't be in the store 24/7. They could of course hire competent help to staff those other hours when they can't be there, but there's something special about the owner being the one on the other side of the counter. At least in my opinion and that's party what I'm willing to pay for.

I wonder where the balance is.

jafs 7 years ago

It's always seemed a bit odd to me that "normal business hours" are when everybody is working.

birdsandflowers 7 years ago

Over the years, the turnover in that position seems to be often. Is there a conflict in the duties/expectations of the director versus the expectations of the board and/or merchants?

sherbert 7 years ago

Yeah, why do we subsidize a shopping district? They should pool their money together to pay for their own advertising, just like the rest of the small business owners in town have to pay for their own.

cowboy 7 years ago

boing boing boing , land on your feet Jane !

Clovis Sangrail 7 years ago

“I don’t think it is in the organization’s best interest for us to air our dirty laundry in the newspaper,” Pennington said.

But since they are subsidized by taxpayer dollars, I would think this goes beyond being a just an internal squabble. If there are tax dollars being funnelled into an organization that cannot keep its help, doesn't the public have a right to know?

And as for patronizing downtown merchants -- If they had clean and accessible public restroons, and by "accessible," I mean not in the cellar behind the overstock merchandise, I'd shop there more.

If I needed more sports hats and t-shirt with crap printed on them, that is.

pace 7 years ago

She didn't paint the downtown as wanting to be part of a larger community. She seemed to project downtown as a separate cold entity. Downtown is one of my favorite things about Lawrence, I see it as the heart. She was not able to communicate a clear picture of downtown as a great destination because she didn't have a very clear picture. I think most of the downtown merchants are good people with honest intention to offer their wares and serve costumers. That is a good thing to communicate to people. I hope Downtown can achieve being successful in both retail and entertainment.

Downtown at night should be more patrolled. The merchants wanting evening business should take more active responsibility for the atmosphere It can be a party without being a riot. The retail merchants should try more combined sales events, If the arts can have a first Friday, The retailers should have a Special, come in and look day, Have a special window dressing day a month. Thursday use to be a great day to shop. Motivate people to come downtown and shop. Maybe some clothes above size 10. More maps about all the stores and what they have to offer me. Become more personal. Use some advertising to tell people who you want to sell to, make them feel invited. Don't be afraid to show Laurence's personality. Retailers, go back to the basics, tell your clerks to greet customers, half the time they looked bored and snide. Encourage stores to tell and achieve a unique face,
Once you get a picture of downtown to sell, advertise it in newspapers in other towns and venues. I hope they get a lively, creative, friendly person in the position.

jafs 7 years ago

Interesting ideas.

But I'm not sure I think it's the merchants' responsibility to "patrol" downtown Lawrence - that's a police responsibility, isn't it?

pace 7 years ago

I think that is how downtown at night thinks too. It is even worse than that. I don't think they want the police patrols. It is sell every drink and help them to the door, then wink and nod. Very short sighted.

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