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DID considers downtown promotional push

Can the various groups within downtown Sarasota team up to promote business in the heart of the city?

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  • | 6:00 a.m. January 2, 2017
DID board member Eileen Hampshire believes advertising can help all downtown busiensses.
DID board member Eileen Hampshire believes advertising can help all downtown busiensses.
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Eileen Hampshire is a believer in the power of promotion.

She uses it to bolster her own business, Art To Walk On, a rug store located at 16 S. Palm Ave. She attributes the store’s continued success in part to her decision to advertise it with a sponsorship on WUSF-TV.

“People say to me, ‘You’re so lucky you have customers,’” Hampshire said. “You can’t sit there and hope people find you.”

Now, she wants to use it to help business throughout downtown. A member of the Downtown Improvement District, Hampshire proposed funding a new promotional campaign for the heart of the city at that group’s last meeting.

Joint downtown marketing efforts aren’t a new concept. Beginning in 2014, the “We Are Downtown” promotional campaign produced banners and informational brochures thanks to contributions from the DID and Sarasota Downtown Merchants Association.

Those efforts have struggled to unite the various factions within downtown, which includes the DID, SDMA and the Downtown Sarasota Alliance. Hampshire said those divisions may exist because the character of downtown varies from block to block.

If her proposal catches on, she wants to offer merchants the opportunity to chip in and promote a specific segment of downtown, whether it’s Palm Avenue, lower Main Street or State Street.

“Focus on those differences,” Hampshire said. “We’re like a mosaic of downtown.”

“We’re like a mosaic of downtown.” — Eileen Hampshire

Ron Soto, a DID board member and president of the merchants group, agrees downtown could benefit from more promotion. He doesn’t think any one group should tackle it alone, though.

He’s looking to St. Armands Circle — where the merchants’ St. Armands Circle Association and the property owners’ St. Armands Business Improvement District work on a unified campaign — as a model to emulate.

He and DID board member Steve Seidensticker also expressed interest in a social media-based campaign as the group continues its conversation.

“That’s the future,” Soto said.

Whether it’s online, over the air or in print, Hampshire is a strong advocate of getting out a positive message about the direction of downtown.

“We have a lot of individuals that are doing really good things,” she said. “We’re on the right track.”