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Happy birthday to us

This is the 20th birthday of the Peabody Main Street Program. As with any such institution, there have been ups and downs, pluses and minuses, and some really good moments for all of us as a community. Main Street is a program I believe in and I make no bones about that. Many years ago, I worked with Peabody Chamber of Commerce and Peabody PRIDE. Both had their good points and when we had an active business base, both were effective promotional programs.

But, somewhere along the way, our community began to lose ground as businesses folded or left for greener pastures. In 1989, a small group of people introduced us to the Main Street program and the idea of promoting our community history and downtown architecture, making the downtown area the hub of community activity once again, and providing essential retail businesses and services to help keep Peabody alive.

As with any such venture, there were boom years and lean years. After 20 years, I think we have just about seen it all. We enjoyed that first blush of notoriety when we were the media darlings and television, radio, and print media couldn’t get enough of us. We slogged through later years when we could no long maintain that kind of momentum. We “started over” a couple of times. We had some terrific directors and board members and some that were not so terrific.

We haven’t been able to renovate every building or make every event a slam-dunk success, but we have saved some buildings and we certainly have had successful promotions. One of the state or national people who was in Peabody in the early years said, “We can’t guarantee you growth and success if you work hard at preservation and promotion, but we can most certainly guarantee you failure if you do nothing.”

I think he probably was right. Who knows what our community might be like if we had never tried? Many of you know the story of my purchase of the former McMillen Market (now Mayesville Mercantile) for $425 in 1985. That is not a scenario that is likely to be repeated in downtown Peabody any time soon.

So happy birthday to us and happy birthday to Peabody Main Street. Give your community a birthday gift and volunteer to help with a Main Street event this year. There are several coming up and Shane Marler will be happy to put your name on a list of volunteers. You could help with the Sleepy Creek Concert series, the second Operation Celebration, downtown cleanup and renovation, or any one of a dozen other projects.

Time to get started on the next twenty years!

— Susan Marshall

Last modified March 26, 2009

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