On Broadway Inc. and Broadway businesses are snapping back from the “chaos,” as some have taken to calling the kerfuffle over Walmart’s failed attempt to locate a Supercenter in the district.
“I think my plan is to get back to our original plan and mission and to focus on small business,” said Tara Gokey, who last week was named On Broadway Inc.’s seventh executive director in 19 years. “I think everybody was looking forward to moving on and up. I’m seeing a renewed interest in what On Broadway is doing.”
Nicole Zich, owner of Sassy Girl, 107 N. Broadway, and leader of the Broadway Business Owners Association, sees a similar recovery in the district, whose business and property owners were divided by the Walmart proposal. She said the BBO, as it’s called, is experiencing a resurgence in participation, with more than 30 business representatives attending the last meeting. Meetings had stopped.
On Broadway and the BBO are two of three groups that have impact on life on Broadway. The other is the Broadway Business Improvement District (BID). By design, there is some overlap of members, and the groups work together, but each has a different emphasis. On Broadway is mostly responsible for business development and support, historic preservation and events, such as the summer farmers market. The BID focuses on infrastructure improvements and marketing, with On Broadway serving as its staff. And the BBO is business people talking to each other about what they do, sharing information and best practices, and offering advice to the other two.
“We talk about what’s pertinent to the district. We talk about events, improvements to the district and issues that have come up,” Zich said. “We need to see each other. We need to know each others’ products and services. We can’t refer customers to other businesses if we don’t know what they are doing.”
Gokey, who joined On Broadway in 2012, has extensive Green Bay — and Broadway — roots. Her dad, John Kosmoski, is a founder of Cup O Joy coffee house on Broadway; her uncle is Paul Kosmoski of Kos Management; and her husband, Allen Gokey, owns Packerland Builders. She is a graduate of N.E.W. Lutheran High School and attended Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. She passed the test for her real estate license when she was 17, though didn’t get it until she was 18.
“As a kid I’d come down here (to Broadway), much to my mother’s dismay, because she feared for my safety,” Gokey said, emphasizing how much the district has changed during On Broadway’s 19 years. “That’s why I love this job. I was raised here.”
On Broadway president Elliot Christenson said he had one-on-one meetings with each of the organization’s other 10 board members before suggesting Gokey for the executive director position.
“I wanted to be as transparent as possible without opening it to chaos,” he said.
On Broadway Inc. has 11 board members with the possibility two more will be added soon, Christenson said.
Board members are Chad Van Handel, Ann Seidl, Mike Hal, Peter Nugent, Elliot Christenson, Jennifer Bukouricz, Peggy Crabb, Michelle Zjala-Winter, Brent Weycker, Kathy VanHemelryk and Joe Kiedinger.
“We are really working on board development. We want members to be fully engaged,” Christenson said. “We want to set the bar high for anyone we add. That’s kind of a big deal for me.”
Her transition to interim and then permanent executive director was easy because she continued to work with district businesses during the more than year-long Walmart debate, Gokey said.
“I feel like we are really known for our events, but there is also that underlying work we do with businesses … to help them succeed,” she said.
That kind of help would include such things as small business Facebook training, Christenson said.
Events, however, will be front and center throughout the Christmas season and all of 2015, On Broadway’s 20th anniversary year.
Gokey is getting the first Winter Wine Walk off the ground — it started Friday and will continue Dec. 12 and 19 — and developing 20 more events for next year to celebrate the anniversary. Details are being worked out, but they will include a New Year’s Eve Masquerade Ball at the new Titletown Tap Room and events throughout the year, including such established district successes as the summer farmers market, Taste on Broadway and the Winter Lighting Ceremony. Some new events might be one-timers, but others could repeat if they are successful enough. The events will be designed to have an impact on all of downtown, Gokey said.
Christenson said the Walmart debate distracted attention from success the district continued to have.
“We’ve had dozens of business open in the last few years and dozens of expansions, and our events have grown,” he said.
Christmas season sales are off to a good start. Gokey said Small Business Saturday, on the opening weekend of Christmas shopping season, was a good day.
“Some of the businesses said it was the best Small Business Saturday ever,” Gokey said.
— rryman@greenbaypress gazette.com and follow him on Twitter @RichRymanPG or on Facebook at Richard Ryman-Press-Gazette. Contact him at (920) 431-8342.
On Broadway Inc.
•Address: 117 S. Chestnut Ave., Green Bay
•Telephone: (930) 437-2531
•Web site: onbroadway.org
•Staff: Two full time, two part time, more than 120 volunteers
•David Harris (1995-2000)
•Greg Larsen (2000-2014)
•Elliot Christenson (2014-present)
•Lara Vande Walle (1996)
•Stephanie Hawkinson (1997-2000)
•Karen Thornton (2000-2001)
•Naletta Burr (2001–2008)
•Kelly Czypinski (2008-2009)
•Christopher Naumann (2010-2014)
•Tara Gokey (2014-present)
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