Having just won a nationwide competition for a $500,000 revitalization, Bristol Borough’s small business community is closer than ever to the comeback it’s been trying to make for decades.
The borough of less than 10,000 people was on Feb. 22 named the recipient of a “Main Street makeover” from marketing company Deluxe Corporation after earning itself enough votes to surpass four other finalists in California, Massachusetts, Minnesota and South Carolina.
“We had 300 people assembled to watch them announce the winner, and I’ve never seen an emotional outpouring like that for any municipal or civic event, ever,” said Bill Pezza, chairman of Raising the Bar, the nonprofit civic group behind the borough’s push to win the competition.
Now, a new type of competition begins, as Deluxe decides which of the borough’s small businesses should receive a chunk of its $500,000 makeover pie and be featured in its online series — “Small Business Revolution on Main Street” — which will chronicle their transformation process. Amanda Brinkman, Deluxe’s chief brand and communications officer, and “Shark Tank” star Robert Herjavec will head up that work.
The show begins filming this month and is expected to wrap up in July.
As of March 2, Brinkman said that more than 100 businesses had applied for the opportunity to appear on the show. She and a team will be meeting with the top 20 before settling on a final group of six, who will each be highlighted in their own episode while receiving business assistance and advice from Brinkman and Herjavec.
The team will base its final decision on a number of factors, but is primarily looking for businesses most in need of Deluxe’s marketing services and expertise. They should also be relatable.
“We really use the series to inspire and educate other small businesses, so that a small business in California can watch an episode, see themselves in that story, and be able to use the same advice we gave the business in that episode,” Brinkman said.
Andrew Dittman, who opened Calm Water Coffee Roasters in Bristol Borough’s business corridor two years ago, is one of the many vying for Deluxe’s attention. Though the coffee shop is doing well, Dittman believes it could still stand to gain from the experience.
“There are a lot of projects we want to do in the future, but we don’t have the capital to do it. We were thinking they could help us accomplish that sooner,” Dittman said.
Richard Vallejo, who’s owned and operated Another Time Antiques along the borough’s main business corridor for the last 39 years, is in a different position.
“Many of my major customers have passed away, and I’ve never replaced them,” Vallejo said. “But I’m not the greatest on social media, so I was hoping they could help me out with that.”
But beyond what Deluxe and Herjavec could potentially do for his antique store, Vallejo is excited about what the team might accomplish for the community, as a whole.
“I watched the first season of their show, and what it did for [Wabash, Ind.] -- it changed their whole atmosphere,” he said. “People came together and really supported the community.”
Beyond assisting a select few for the series, Brinkman said that Deluxe would be holding a number of marketing seminars for the other businesses in town. She and Herjavec will also be working with local officials to improve the borough’s look and feel, in general. In Wabash, Ind., last season’s winner, the two helped redesign an alleyway so that it could function as an attractive thoroughfare conjoining two of the city’s Main Streets.
Whatever they decide to do in Bristol Borough, the business community is ready for it.
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen, which is kind of exciting,” Dittman said. “It’s a blessing, no matter what.”