"Without Shoppers, There will Be No Shops," Beers, Chamber of Commerce, said.

The Bethel Chamber of Commerce has a call to action for it’s Shop Local Program.


The Bethel Chamber of Commerce is working hard to further the revitalization of downtown Bethel.  Bobbi Jo Beers, director at the Chamber, is passionate about that goal. 

“People complain about the empty shops downtown, but if people were shopping downtown, we would not have empty shops,” she said.

Beers highlighted many of the ways in which residents can support the changes in their town.  “The Shop Bethel Initiative is the first step in the snowball effect of building a better Bethel,” she said.  “If people only shop at the mall, Stony Hill and the downtown area will continue to suffer.”

Beers said that it is unlikely that businesses would move to Bethel if people don’t shop here.  “This movement is so important.  Shopping local is true harmony.  It plays into the overall good feeling in the town.  Shopping local is environmentally friendly, too.  It eliminates trucking, using excess fuel, and pollution.”  

“Ninety percent of the jobs for high schoolers come from local businesses. We look to our local businesses to give our kids their first jobs,” Beers said. “People complain that the shops are closed on Sunday or aren’t open late, but if the shops were busy, they would stay open.”

Resident of Bethel for 32 years, Lorraine Clark shared a table in Molten Java with a few friends.  The women talked about the way Bethel used to be. “There was  mom and pop clothing store where you could buy decent quality clothing for the whole family,”  Clark said.

The ladies named others that used to line the street, “There was a craft shop that had really wonderful things; another shop called Booklet, where they sold gifts.”

“We have enough pizza places,” Clark added, then said, “Look out the window.  Dolan Plaza has become downtown.”

First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker said that Bethel is better off now than it was a few years ago. “ A new pizza place comes in every year and they never go away,” he said.  “The restaurants are doing well. They are always filled.  We have a tremendously diverse assortment in town and in Stony Hill.”

Knickerbocker said that the Bethel Chamber of Commerce’s Restaurant Week was tremendously successful. “It brought in a lot of people, and they may do another one soon.”

“We have been looking for ways to have a vibrant community.  Bobbi Jo and the Chamber of Commerce have really worked hard on this idea,”  he said.

Knickerbocker said that people don’t want to be controlled by big government, but when times are bad, most do want the government to step in.  “If business comes in, it grows the grand list and lessens the tax. It is in the towns best interest to want to have a successful retail business.”

Beers agreed and said, “People complain that we don’t have a strong tax base.  Having a good community and schools can bring in the new businesses.”

Beers believes the entire town will benefit by shopping local.  “Ninety percent of donations for schools come from businesses, so not only are we supporting business, we are supporting our schools. We can lower personal taxes if we bring more local shops in town. You will get better service because the people helping you are your community members.”

Perhaps the ultimate reason, Beers said, “If you invest your community, you will be less likely to leave the town.”

“I hope the program will bring shops back to the downtown area the way they used to be, not too long ago,” Knickerbocker said. “I hope we can bring those retailers back.”  

The Bethel Chamber of Commerce has several opportunities for getting involved in the community, including Thursday, June 7, Casino Networking Event for Chamber of Commerce members and anyone interested in a fun evening of rolling the dice for big prizes including an iPad, Sony camera, Garmin GPS, and a big screen TV. Click here to upload a flyer with more information.  

Also, the Bethel Chamber of Commerce Summer Festival, July 20-22  will feature home made items, crafts, foods, locally grown, sidewalk sales, vendor and craft fair, games, and more. 

 Contact : The Bethel Chamber of Commerce, contactus@bethelchamber.com


Bill Hillman June 06, 2012 at 01:33 PM
The landlords really need to re-evaluate their price-point. Lower rent might help attract business, and the shoppers that go with that, and one would think a lower return is better than a vacant storefront with no return. That's an issue that Government can't solve. What the Town might do is to consider a partial subsidizing of a marketing campaign, coordinated with the Chamber. It's a chicken and egg situation. The right kind of shops attract shoppers who browse in other stores, visit restaurants and enjoy Bethel. Starting a shop requires looking at the foot traffic and number of shoppers. It needs to be a full court press, and part of it does involve the building owners thinking long and hard about the rents.
Doug June 06, 2012 at 02:17 PM
The problem with the downtown area is that all the newer stores are not the type of places that people come to to browse. They are specific destinations. There was a time you could come and browse a dozen or so places and have a nice time. All of those places are now gone. Nobody browses at an Irish dance place or a yoga studio. On top of that, these places all have store fronts with no visual appeal since they don't actually have wares to display. It makes for a very bleak landscape. I'm all about buying local, but there is nothing there for me. It is depressing.
Eric T Gray June 06, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Forget about people... what about sewers? No sewers, no shops. To Bill's point, lower rent would be a common sense place to start... this should also drive the price tag for goods down. I don't buy often downtown because it is cheaper to buy elsewhere.
J. Rick June 06, 2012 at 03:37 PM
There is no doubt that diversity is the key to success. The Firstselectman's comment on new pizza shops opening and still here is a red flag if one were to study the demographics of small towns. Doug is 100% correct, there is very little in down-town to intice shoppers. I was very surprised when the Chamber moved and took over what should be a most desirable locatipon. That whole little section of Greenwood now has no draw other than the pub. Foot traffic is key and sorry to say, most folks have very little need to be in our Downtown. I wish I had the answer but I don't. What I do know is we don't need any more pizza spots, yoga and dance nor message parlors. Rather than focusing on route 6 which does very well on its own we all need to find a way to rekindle the home town spirit. I for one shop Tru Value Hardware, Agway, Bethel Food, Bethel Auto etc. It isn't easy to do with the hours but worth while to support the town we moved here for.
Crusader Rabbit June 06, 2012 at 04:10 PM
The landlords still need to pay taxes and that contributes to to the cost of rent but I agree with you. Every non-retail store front means 20 - 70 fewer shoppers downtown (my estimate) so every dance studio, cell phone store, empty for 9 months tax prep service, etc. means that many fewer shoppers in town. I agree a healthy mix is needed but Bethel should consider the type of zoning they have in New Canaan where street level store fronts must be retail and service businesses are located on second floors or in a different zoning district.
Alicia Craybas June 06, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Shop local like the Toy Room, Gift Cottage, and English Apothecary for gift items..The Toy Room runs specials , they have a FB page..The Gift Cottage as well and they email coupons to frequent shoppers and offer shopper benefits , huge bonus !! The ALL GIFT WRAP I believe , presentation is key and when people ask "where did you buy that?" you share downtown Bethel shoppes. Engish has some new BETHEL items ...keep it local
Jenipher Sage-Robison June 06, 2012 at 09:34 PM
I try to get as many bday and holiday gifts at the Toy Room as possible. That place is fantastic. I try to get all my books at Byrd's Books and Relay Bookhouse. Breakfast at Jacqueline's is a weekly event for me and my husband. Molten Java is a big part of our lives. Going there on Thursday evenings for a cookie and juice with my husband is a big treat for my daughter. Our dry cleaner is downtown. Peachwave and Dr. Mike's are family favorites. And I never buy my paint anywhere but Tom's. It is more effort to go downtown but I can't imagine not doing it. The alternative is to let our whole country turn into one big shopping mall where every town looks exactly the same. Ugh.
Catherine Bach June 07, 2012 at 11:40 AM
Is it better for Bethel to have an empty storefront or an Irish Dance Studio? Just wanted to share that Gilleoghan Irish Dance brings dancers in from all over the state of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and as far as Ohio during the summer session. Where do you think the parents of these dancers go? They shop at English Appothocary, the Gift Cottage, Peachwave, go to Greenwoods, Putnam House, etc. Does Bethel need business, absolutely! But please don't say that an Irish Dance studio does not bring people to our town.
Bill Hillman June 07, 2012 at 12:41 PM
we do need some nice retail so that the Irish Dancers have an opportunity to buy things as they go to and from the dance studio
Konnie Davis June 08, 2012 at 12:31 PM
I was in the chamber the other day dropping something off and I learned that they sell items from chamber members. In fact they will sell anything that any one of their members asks them to sell. I also learned that they sell gift certificates good in pretty much any business in Bethel. I think it's great the chamber is in the middle of downtown and I'm pretty sure there is another empty store front nearby if someone really wanted to rent one.
Ken Darrah June 11, 2012 at 08:03 PM
We are now using the Bethel Apothecary instead of Target or CVS. Great service and friendly. We also use the Toy Store, Give them a try people!! Give gift cards to local shops as gifts! Keep the funds in Bethel instead of big chain store pockets......
--- June 11, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Men's clothing. It would be great to have a men's clothing shop in town. Target and Kohl's get my money for clothing. It would be nice to keep that money in Bethel, to a local business owner.
Carolyn July 12, 2012 at 04:13 PM
I agree with what Crusader said, regarding the fact that the type of shops we have generally do no encourage foot traffic. Foot traffic businesses include: Bakeries, clothing stores, eateries, any type of food, gifts, and more. But is this the real problem, or is it a symptom of the fact that PEOPLE HAVE NO MONEY TO SPEND BECAUSE THEY ARE LOSING THEIR JOBS???? I really can't believe no one has brought this up. We are in big trouble in this country. Unemployment has not been consistently this high since the 1940's.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »