Downtown Retail Rx

Part of the Retail Toolkit designed to help Downtown retail businesses thrive in 2021.

About the program:

Downtown Retail Rx is designed to help position existing Downtown retail businesses for success as we emerge from the COVID-19 disruption and welcome everyone back Downtown!

In a nutshell, this program provides professional advice in one of four key focus areas; 1) exterior improvements & curb appeal, 2) interior design & merchandising, 3) small business management consulting, and 4) marketing & PR strategy. Following the consulting work, a small DMC grant may be available to start implementing the recommended changes.

Local experts will include:

  • Exterior Upgrades & Curb Appeal – Valentina Puppione Cochran, Arch Inc, a WBE Architecture firm
  • Merchandising & Interior Design – Natalie Lieberman, Collect + Curate Studio, a WBE Interior Design firm
  • Business Management Consulting – Communities Unlimited, Cynthia Norwood Terry, Director of Entrepreneurship

Who is eligible:

  • Existing businesses only
  • Must be located in a ground-floor commercial space Downtown (within the Central Business Improvement District)
  • First priority given to businesses located on Main Street, within a targeted retail node, or within the Downtown Core (CBID Map, Core Map and Retail Nodes Map)
  • Preference given to direct-to-consumer retail businesses
  • Restaurants and service businesses may be considered if funding is available
  • Preference given to businesses with a minimum of 2 years left on their commercial lease or that own their own space
  • National chains and franchisees are not eligible at this time. 

The program aims to support local and unique small businesses. Our goal is to help businesses that have committed to stay Downtown for the foreseeable future. 

How the program works:

The needs of each business will vary depending on the most significant challenges and opportunities expected over the next year. Each selected business will work with DMC staff to determine the category of assistance that will be the most impactful. While each category is obviously important for every business, the goal is to pick the one category that will be the most useful in supporting the success and future growth of the business. A limited number of spots will be available for each of the four categories of support.

The Four Types of Support Include:

1. Exterior Upgrades & Curb Appeal

The exterior of your retail business is what invites customers in to explore the offerings. The look of your storefront windows, front door, and exterior space can encourage foot traffic or scare potential customers away. Can you think of any exterior changes that might help you give your customers the best first impression and get them in the door? If so, this type of support might be for you!

Examples of potential improvements:

  • New awnings
  • Exterior signage
  • A-frame/sandwich board
  • Outdoor patios, seating, & planters
  • Outside lighting
  • Exterior painting and deferred maintenance/repair
  • Storefront/window/door repair 
  • Includes up to 5 hours of design assistance provided by DMC through a local architect. A special grant of up to $5,000 can be requested to help pay for this exterior work at the end of the design process. If the needed improvements are more expensive, the business owner could apply for an Exterior Improvement Grant (EIG) from the DMC to help pay for the complete scope of improvements.

2. Merchandising & Interior Design

Does the interior look and feel of your business need a refresh for the upcoming year? A fresh look and attractive merchandising is important because it can help attract new customers and entice current customers to buy more. A well thought out and attractive interior design and display strategy can also increase impulse purchases, raise the average transaction amount, and improve customer awareness of both seasonal offerings and your full product line. Does the current look and feel of your shop match your vision for the space? If not, this support might be just what you’re looking for!

Example of interior improvements: 

  • Specific design advice for refreshing the interior look of the retail space.
  • Recommendations for enhanced display of merchandise. 
  • Interior paint & lighting
  • New fixtures and displays, if recommended by designer/retail expert.
  • Interior signage, graphics, and accent furnishings. 
  • High-quality and artistic storefront window displays. 
  • Includes up to 5 hours of design assistance provided by DMC through a local designer or retail expert. A special grant of up to $5,000 can be requested to help pay for this interior work at the end of the design process.

3. Small Business Management Advice & Consulting

Whether you have been open for decades or just a year, times are changing for retail. As we all look forward to 2021 and beyond, this could be a great opportunity for a retail strategy checkup with a small business consultant. It never hurts to get an independent perspective and extra set of eyes on essential things like basic bookkeeping, financial & cash flow management, and pricing strategies. No matter how you are doing, things can always get better with good advice and solid strategy! Take this opportunity to team up with a local retail expert that has a track record of helping small businesses succeed.

The small business consultant will complete an initial evaluation and recommend the specific area(s) where improvements can be most helpful in achieving your goals. Examples of typical services include the following:

  • Basic bookkeeping
  • Cash flow management
  • Customer retention strategies
  • Inventory management
  • Pricing strategies
  • Small business management
  • Sales opportunities analysis
  • Includes up to 20 hours of business management consulting provided in partnership with Communities Unlimited.

4. Marketing and PR

When times are tough and margins thin, investment in marketing and advertising is often one of the first things cut. That is unfortunate because a high-impact, focused, and deliberate investment in outreach to current and future customers is needed now more than ever as foot traffic is still building back up to 2019 levels. Now is the time to get the message out that you’re open for business and ready to welcome everyone back Downtown! Ready to start spreading the word that you are open for business and better than ever? If so, this support might be just what you need.

Examples of the support that can be provided by the DMC’s expert marketing  team include:

  • Customized guidance for harnessing the power of social media to reach new customers and attract repeat business. Up to 5 hours of coaching and $750 to use for social media marketing coordination with a 3 month marketing plan. 
  • Small group training on photography, social media best practices, PR and communications tips, online sales, etc. 
  • Review of your existing website and suggestions from a local marketing expert, if needed. Up to 2 hours of review. 
  • Membership in a small cohort of small businesses owners that can encourage, collaborate, and support each other going forward.

“I’m thrilled to see Downtown getting more density and vibrancy and I love helping businesses activate their space in both the interior but exterior. The indoor/outdoor connection is what creates lively storefront space and we have wonderful bones downtown to work with so these small changes go a long way.”  

  natalie lieberman, NCIDQ | interior designer + creative consultant
 c o l l e c t  +  c u r a t e  s t u d i o


This special program is available for a limited time only, and is intended to help our retailers get ready for a strong fall and an even better 2022!

Applications will be accepted beginning May 14, 2021. The program will officially launch in June 2021 with a goal of having the work funded by the DMC grant complete by October, 2021.

Ready to apply? 

Retail Rx - Apply Now!

Questions: Brett Roler, VP Planning and Development – or
Penelope Huston, VP Marketing –