CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Downtown Chillicothe is booming, thanks in large part to the city’s downtown economic driver, Main Street Chillicothe. While many downtown areas in rural Missouri struggle to grow, Chillicothe is becoming a hub of activity.
KMZU’s Brian Lock was able to catch up with Ben White, Executive Director of Main Street Chillicothe, who said Chillicothe’s success has been long-fought for and is the result of a massive team effort.
Click below to hear their conversation, which aired Wednesday on KMZU.
What makes Chillicothe’s economic growth story a success? According to Ben White, it’s a years-long team effort paired with the building and nurturing of relationships between the city, business owners and tourists who return to the city time and again.
Chillicothe has become well-known throughout Northwest Missouri for its thriving arts and cultural scene. The story of most small, rural towns in Missouri and across the U.S. is often a negative one – shrinking economies, falling populations and expanding income inequalities. Chillicothe bucks that trend, thanks in large part to the massive success of the not-for-profit Chillicothe Main Street organization.
“We have a couple of really good programs which have helped spur some development,” White said. “We have our mural program, which is going into our 25th one this year, it’s been very successful. We are able to dress up the buildings and make them attractive. Kind of along those lines, we have our facade renovation program too, which is a matching grant program that we work with building owners to renovate their buildings that makes them an attractive place for people to do business.”
White stressed that building relationships and partnerships is the cornerstone to a successful downtown. Many towns and small cities do not have the luxury of the programs afforded to Chillicothe businesses and locals, and White explained that in order for those programs to be made successful, cultivating relationships is key.
“We are nothing without some of the relationships we have been able to forge,” White stated. “We’ve been a Main Street for about 20 years or so, and it wasn’t always the program that it is today.”
Silver Moon Plaza and the Chillicothe Arts Guild are two shining examples of the success Chillicothe Main Street has brought to the community. Simply sprucing up an empty lot and bringing in some talented artists have completely transformed downtown Chillicothe in just a matter of years.
Artsy, culturally-engaged communities are not always the first thing that come to mind when thinking about rural downtown areas, which more often than not form a “square” focused on a central community building.
Chillicothe is capitalizing on its reputation as a cultural and artistic center. The Chillicothe Art Guild is housed in the newly-renovated Cultural Corner Art Guild and Gallery, which is hosting a special exhibit featuring more than 50 works of art this month, with a closing reception to be held March 28. The Stefanie Aziere-Sattler Exhibition features “four-footed and four-wheeled works of art.”
Chillicothe Main Street is also hosting “A Drop Of Dublin,” a craft beer festival set to be held in downtown Chillicothe on Webster Street in front of Silver Moon Plaza on Friday, March 8. The 21 and older festival will feature craft beers from across the area and Missouri. The event begins at 6:00 p.m., and will cost $20 for ten craft beer tastings. A live band will also be featured from 7:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m., Flannigan’s Right Hook, an Irish rock band with roots in Kansas City.
“We have a lot of people with a common goal to make downtown Chillicothe the best place it can be, and we just strive toward that common goal.”