JEFFERSONVILLE — Jeffersonville Main Street is among 25 main street organizations across the country to advance in a national contest.
Downtown Jeffersonville was named this week as a quarterfinalist in the 2021 America’s Main Streets “Road to Recovery” contest, which is presented by Independent We Stand, a national nonprofit focused on supporting small businesses.
Jeffersonville Main Street is the only organization from the Indiana or Kentucky area to reach the quarterfinals of the contest.
Jay Ellis, executive director of Jeffersonville Main Street, said the next step would be to reach the semi-finals, or top 10 in the country. The finalist will receive a grand prize of $25,000.
“We’re very thankful that so many people had voted for Jeffersonville Main Street and Downtown Jeffersonville,” he said. “Now we want to try and rally the community to help us get in the top 10, and if you make it to the top 10, they have a committee at Independent We Stand that evaluates the top 10 and they pick the winner.”
This year, 216 main street organizations were nominated with more than 494,000 votes cast. Ellis said Jeffersonville Main Street made it to the top 10 two years ago and made it to the top 25 last year.
“We’ve always competed very well,” he said. “We’ve got a great volunteer base that really comes out, and they really rally around us and make those votes happen.”
The contest is looking for organizations that “have made a dedicated effort to revitalizing their downtown and supporting local businesses,” Ellis said.
“That’s what we do,” he said. “We try, and that’s the whole name of the game for us — to make downtown Jeffersonville a better place to do business, a better place to live. We want to improve the area. We’ve been working at that for a long time, and this type of competition just really fits the bill for us.
“We’re a nonprofit, so we’re always trying to raise money for different projects and events,” he said. “If we win the $25,000, we want to reinvest it into downtown Jeffersonville and continue the revitalization.”
Ellis said there are many possibilities if they win the grand prize, including investing in events to support local businesses. There are also other potential “place-making” projects Ellis said he cannot go into detail about at this time. These projects would help bring more people into downtown.
It will be a tough competition, Ellis said. He noted that Jeffersonville Main Street is competing against Mount Airy, North Carolina, the town that inspired Mayberry in the “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Downtown Jeffersonville has a lot to offer, Ellis said, and he emphasizes that it is a walkable area with plenty of independent businesses, including coffee shops, restaurants and boutiques. For 130 years, Schimpff’s Confectionary has been a staple of downtown Jeffersonville.
When the pandemic hit, the main street organization used crowdfunding efforts to offer a reinvestment fund for local businesses, and the money supported their needs as they adapted to COVID-19.
“We did not lose many businesses in that first year of [the pandemic], which was really jarring to everybody, because everyone was trying to figure out how the world was going to work — there were so many unknowns,” he said.
The organization didn’t hold many special events last year, but this year, it has presented events such as its Wine Walk, Concerts in the Park, Farm to Table Dinner and Holiday Open House.
Jeffersonville Main Street’s farmers market continued through the first year of the pandemic, and the number of attendees and vendors has grown significantly, Ellis said.
Events ahead include the Holiday Open House Christmas Cookie Stroll from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4.
Ellis described Jeffersonville Main Street’s role in supporting the revitalization of downtown. Over the past few decades, the downtown has grown after years of empty storefronts, and the main street organization has helped with efforts such as renovation of historic buildings.
“It’s been incremental progress, but you come to today, and you’ve got a lot of thriving businesses, very few empty storefronts, very few empty buildings, you’ve got people coming down from all over…the Big Four Bridge has been an incredible shot in the arm that’s opened up a whole another avenue,” he said.
The organization is spreading the word about the contest through social media, its website and its emailed newsletter, according to Ellis.
Semifinalist voting begins Nov. 15 and continues through Dec. 12. The winner of the contest will be announced Dec. 20 with a celebration tentatively scheduled for February 2022.
To vote online for Jeffersonville Main Street, go to https://mainstreetcontest.com/profile/32