If you like the St. Joseph, Michigan mural downtown showing beachgoers of a bygone era watching a stellar Lake Michigan sunset, get ready for more color, more fun, more whimsy as the merchant promotion and community events hosts at St. Joseph Today plan for new entries in the central business district.
Expressing deep gratitude to organization members and visitors this week during the annual meeting of St. Joseph Today, Executive Director Amy Zapal told those on hand that the success of the mural on the rear of their Visitor Center building downtown has been so well received that more are in the planning stages.
Zapal says, "As you drive down Main Street and you don’t see State Street, you now have a great mural that says 'St. Joseph, Michigan,' and lets people know where they are and that there’s something happening beyond Main Street." She adds, "Moving into the New Year, we’re working on additional mural walls and have a couple that have committed to us, some funders who are committed to us, and some artists who are committed to us to create those." She didn't pinpoint exact locations or timelines, but notes, "It makes our community brighter, prettier, more fun, and more whimsical and we’re happy to do that."
Zapal used the Annual Meeting event at the Hilton Garden Inn of Benton Harbor to hone in on the three key focal points of her organization and its small, but dedicated, staff. Citing the mission of supporting business and enhancing the recognition and image of the community, Zapal called that, "A special privilege that we get to work on every single day."
A typical annual meeting in the past shared a lot of the "By the Numbers" basics, but she told the membership those would be shared in the weekly newsletter, so that she could focus on the three keys to the organization.
Here are those three main focal points and some of Zapal's thoughts on each:
- Our Welcome Center. "We have almost 20,000 people visiting there every year. We’re easy to find and as a result, you are, too because we share all of your information through rack cards, posters, brochures help tell your story to thousands."
- Our Membership. "We think of our members as our partners. Without members, there is no St. Joe Today. Your partnership with us lets me know every day that you recognize that we are in this together, and together we are better, and can tell our story as one community with one voice for which we are grateful."
- Our Events. "It is our most visible effort, and we have great events that are unique, wonderful, and, while it’s easy to say our events are successful because we have such a high degree of participation by visitors and residents alike, what's most important to me is that you, as members, participate in them. We can only have events like the successful Chili Tour if you as merchants open your doors and invite people in...and you do, kindly, lovingly, warmly, and in an accepting way, so thank you."
Zapal also noted that the organizations events are also successful because members offer up their underwriting and sponsorship, adding, "That provides the capital that we need in order to craft a great event, because it does cost. That sponsorship, that partnership, the faith that you put in us is really, really, really valuable. It is something that we cherish and think about every day."
She also thanked the many volunteers who pitch in, saying to the crowd, "Not only are you members and participants, but you also volunteer. The only way we can host events like we do is with the dozens of volunteers who help staff them. There are only four of us, as staff, and it wouldn’t be possible without a great team of regular volunteers and the commitment you bring to every single level."
As she wrapped up her comments this week, Amy addressed the small independent businesses with a staff of barely two or three, acknowledging, "You have to be frightened at times wondering how you can make it through a long winter, but we make it through together. When you open your doors every day and you’re there every day, serving our community, making it more valuable and more enticing and inviting, you’re also supporting big business. It helps others to say I want to invest here, I want to get a job here, I want to work here and I want to live here. The investment that you make in our community cannot be understated. Thank you."
A major highlight of the past year was when the St. Joe Today team created the ongoing campaign, “Meet me in St. Joseph, Explore all Four Seasons.” That is a venture backed not only by light pole banners and collateral materials, but also by the very understanding, as Zapal says, that, "We are not a three-season town, or a three month town, we are a four-season, twelve-month town, and vibrant throughout the year."
The numbers, which were released this morning to St. Joe Today members, back her up. More than 19,000 visitors, double digit increases on multiple social media platforms, and a lot more. Take a look at what St. Joe Today shared over the past year by clicking the link: