Welcome to the new home of Lee's Summit Tribune. We are dedicated to providing you the most current and accurate news and events in Lee's Summit
Home»News»Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street was...
Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street was recognized as one of 5 neat cities who won the Great American Main Street Award.
May 8, 2010
By Kathy Smith / Tribune Society Editor Our
Downtown Brain Trust:Mayor Randy Rhoads,
Dale Hartley and Steve Tomina Tribune Photo / Kathy Smith
So we got on the “Happy Bus” around 8:30 a.m. last Tuesday and off we went to Oklahoma City to participate in the award ceremony as Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street was recognized as one of 5 neat cities who won the Great American Main Street Award. On the bus were folks from all corners of our community including our new Mayor Randy Rhoads, Councilmember Alan Gray and Steve Arbo, City Manager for the City of Lee’s Summit. Some other very important folks were on board as well: Brad and Carole Culbertson; Karen and Dick Thurber; Julie Grogan, mother of Sarah Shore; Assistant Director of Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street, Dale Hartley; Jason Norbury, downtown attorney; Scott DeVouton, another downtown attorney and former Main Street board member; Rob Binney; Gary Fruits; and Kelly Spencer from the Bank of Lee’s Summit. It was a great group who all proudly took the long bus trip to Oklahoma City. All those miles on the road gave me the opportunity to reflect on how our organization got to where it is today.
As most of you know, Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street is celebrating its 20th anniversary. That is a big deal. I was thinking about all of the volunteer hours over the years that have made our organization successful. My guess is there were more hours than miles from here to Oklahoma City. As the stripes on the road flew by and the hum of the bus became the background for my thoughts, I mentally wandered through the faces of all the people, past and present, who were riding along with us physically and in spirit to receive the award. Howard McCracken, John Wisniewski, Dale Hartley, Mike Bartram, the Culbertsons, Cheri Rabourn, Bev Cook and members of the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce who had a dream of what our downtown could look like. Business names like Baker’s, Miss Kitty’s, The Dress Box, C.J’s Closet, and Main Street Bistro, all former businesses, floated through my sleepy mind. The dream was alive long before Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street came into existence.
Early directors, such as Sara King and Terry Harris, got the ball rolling with their marketing skills and passion. Who would not fall in love with the Main Street concept of getting merchants organized and helping the downtown succeed by having events like Old Tyme Days, which was the main money maker for the organization for years? By this time Mary Stacy was on board. Rabourn was her “Number 1” person who spent hours and hours getting the event together. A strong group of volunteers, including Gary Fruits, came together evenings to produce the well-attended event. Back in those days we had a faux jail, Ray Adams was “sheriff” and folks like Shane Ledford dressed in appropriate vintage clothes to celebrate our city’s history. Around 80,000 attended Old Tyme Days.
As the merchant base in the downtown grew, new ideas, such as the Festival of the Arts, were dreamt up by Karen Thurber and Nancy Bass. You could not meet a better duo. Full of enthusiasm and great ideas, it was their passion for the arts that made that event happen. Let’s not forget Cindy Monaco who made a commitment to downtown town years ago and who always donates to all of the auctions our organizations have and also provides the talent of her students to various events. Over the years, folks like Darla Hall have given their time and talents to Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street. She was the best ad rep I ever had. She could design and write and really made you feel good about the ad that you worked together to design. Charla Henry gave us the Piccadilly. She was in charge of the registration and our organization was able to accept credit cards thanks to her. She is still giving her valuable input on the Promotions Committee. Cassie Gabbert and Becky Hughes opened Bliss Cottage, a neat shabby chic shop that had a tea room upstairs. It was divine. They gave Main Street their wonderful ideas as well and were a part of the Piccadilly Committee.
Businesses came and went each leaving a legacy in our downtown. The “Big idea” was when the city of Lee’s Summit wanted to build a city hall in our downtown. Some folks thought it was a bad idea. Cooler heads prevailed. To help promote the bond issue the city agreed to do a complete overhaul of the streets, sidewalks, infrastructure and lighting. To all of the downtown businesses who dreamed and were able to hang on, this was great news. It was around this time that Steve Tomina came on as the new president of Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street. A mild-mannered guy with board experience was needed to handle the hard task of promoting the no tax bond issue that citizens ended up supporting. The dream became a reality but there were tough days to come. In its infinite wisdom, the city of Lee’s Summit picked the jewel of all jewels of construction companies and hired Wiedenmann & Godfrey Construction as the contractor for the streetscape. They were like angels in t-shirts with really big muscles. An employee of a downtown bank certainly noticed; she ended up marrying one of the workers.
The completion of this project and the Lee’s Summit Historic Preservation Commission getting Downtown Lee’s Summit on the National Register of Historic Places were huge. Now folks like Kurt Pycior could make their projects happen. Metal from the days of urban renewal was removed from the Hartley Building and a new face was revealed. The chatter of folks on the bus became muted as I thought about all of the enthusiasm that exudes from every pore of Downtown Main Street’s great staff. Starting at the top with the director, Jeanine Rann, who keeps everyone on track with the “four point” plan. Sarah Shore, with her writing talents and love of spreadsheets, has made our organization a winner with the Great American Main Street Award. Stacy Brandt, who is little but mighty, and works with all of the various personalities on the Promotions Committee. She does the marketing for our organization. Our new intern, Shealyn Crouch, was outstanding and complements Shore and Brandt perfectly. I call them “The Girls.” All three are delightful and hard-working.
We finally arrived in Oklahoma City. There they were -- “The Girls.” Fresh faced and full of excitement, they were waiting to greet us. Our future was before us. As I watched the videos of the other four winners, I could not help but feel the real power of the Main Street organization. Groups, big and small, really make a difference across the country for their downtowns. Honestly, I think every community that has a Main Street organization is a winner. All of the directors, staff, and volunteers are preserving a way of life that is key to our survival. It was a proud moment when Tominia took to the stage to give his speech, which he had nervously rehearsed beforehand. He called the wonderful Dale Hartley to share the stage. This was truly a special moment. After the ceremony, there was time for a quick dinner and off we went on the “Happy Bus.” It was great trip and a history-making event.
Gary Fruits says:
May 13th, 2010 at 18:16
As one of the "old timers" with Downtown Main Street, I can't thank you enough for your coverage of this event. I have had the distinct privilege and opportunity to know and work with all of the people you have mentioned and many, many more who have given counless hours of their time and talent to help get our downtown where it is today. We can be very proud of our downtown and Downtown Lee's Summit Main Street, Inc. To those of you who know Kathy, you know her to be a great volunteer and great historian of our city - thanks for all you do!
Past President Downtown Lee's Summit Main Street, Inc.