Friends of Norwood Center Hires Downtown Business Manager

Donna Lane
Issue Date: 
November, 2017
Article Body: 

The Friends of Norwood Center (FNC) is a nonprofit organization established in 2011, to develop, build and strengthen the Downtown experience and vitality for the Norwood community. After a nondescript first few years, the FNC have come back strong under the leadership of President John Hall.
“One of the things we’ve been looking at is what is driving the current conditions of our Downtown and what we can do to support the merchants and possibly attract new ones," Hall said. "Our objective is to have people look at Norwood center as a destination where they would want to spend half a day or so. ”
Toward that end, the FNC has hired Kim Weineck as the new part-time downtown business manager.
“Kim will bring fresh ideas and a new energy to our efforts,” Hall said.
Although Weineck had only been on the job for a week when interviewed, she was familiar with some of the challenges of her job as she held the position when the FNC was first established.
Creation of the FNC was one of the directives that came out of the Downtown Norwood Master Plan commissioned in 2011. The Plan accurately reported local residents’ feelings about Downtown.
“While the overall number of businesses has not changed significantly in Downtown Norwood, the loss of several long-time, locally-owned stores has had an emotional impact and, probably to some degree, an economic impact on the Norwood community. The loss of Downtown mainstays such as Regina’s Gifts, Hanlon Shoes, Bernard’s Art Supply and several others have created a void visually and culturally for many local residents, and replacing these types of businesses can be challenging.”
Both Weineck and Hall agree that many downtowns face a number of challenges in today’s economy.
“It used to be that merchants had to compete with the big box stores,” Hall said. “Now they have to compete with the Internet where people can buy many items less expensively than a merchant can sell them for.”
“No one can compete against the dot-coms,” Weineck agreed. “A store like Kline’s couldn’t survive in today’s environment.”
Having run a small art business in downtown Walpole for several years, she has had first-hand experience with the phenomenon. But she also said, “The enemy of progress is nostalgia.”
“The question becomes one of value to the consumer," Weineck said. "While it’s difficult to make a choice to spend a little more than you would on-line, it’s important to consider what you get for that additional cost. Let’s take a pair of shoes as an example. (Bracketed comments are costs to the merchant.) Say the cost is $7 to $10 more. What are you paying for? Convenient location [cost of rent and local taxes], service [personnel costs], immediate access to product and the ability to try on the shoes to make sure they fit properly, requiring a variety of sizes and styles be stocked [inventory cost], and knowing that the taxes merchants pay are being reinvested in the Town. Internet suppliers not only don’t have the overhead our merchants do, they don’t support the Town.”
Weineck also believes that downtowns are poised to help people connect with one another face-to-face versus the anonymous interaction one gets via social media. As an example, she pointed out that Julie Vecchio, owner of Custom Art Framing & Gallery 9, holds an artist reception the first Friday of the month. Free refreshments entice people to stay and mingle while viewing the work of local artists.
She would also like to draw more businesses with aesthetic appeal to Downtown like Silver & Sage, owned by florist Ron Wight.
Weineck plans to promote the fact that Norwood is a great place to dine, shop, work and relax. She will work with business owners, residents, landlords and the Town Planning Department as a liaison “to help connect the dots,” she said. She will also be responsible for managing the Farmer’s Market now that Laurie Shea has stepped down.
Weineck’s initial focus will be the Farmer’s Market and Small Business Saturday which this year will be combined with Norwood’s Holiday Extravaganza on November 25. It will be a day-long celebration that will include a reindeer dash for children (participants will receive antlers), horse-drawn hayrides, caroling at the gazebo, a petting zoo, stories with Mrs. Claus and much more, concluding with the Santa parade and tree lighting on the Common.
“The Friends of Norwood Center, supported by the merchants and residents, are working to make Norwood Center relevant and vibrant,” Hall said. "
Starting in January of 2018, community input meetings will be held.
“These meetings will be a forum for residents to provide input to the FNC about Downtown, bringing ideas, problems and potential solutions to our attention,” Hall said.
Membership in the Friends of Norwood Center is FREE. Residents, businesses, and anyone interested in the revitalization and vitality of Norwood Center is invited to join. Visit to sign up.