The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

June 19, 2013

MBA looks to expand horizons

By HOWARD BALABAN howard.balaban@journal-register.com
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — Medina’s burgeoning downtown renaissance has excited many, and on Tuesday the Medina Business Association was presented two different ways to market the area.

The first way, described by community organization consultant Ted Pietrzak, involved using Bent’s Opera House as a hub in the development of a “destination tourism plan.”

Pietrzak, who was invited to give his presentation by the Orleans Renaissance Group, said Bent’s and the rest of downtown could be part of the Sandstone Trail Tourism Initiative.

The idea behind such a thing is to “knit together businesses” all along the Erie Canal, many of which prominently feature sandstone. The trail would stretch from Medina to Holley and create a nice corridor of travel with Albion in the center.

Destinations on the trail would include, but not be limited to, agricultural stops, restaurants, wineries, and others, Pietrzak said. Such a trail would draw visitors from Lockport, Buffalo, and Niagara Falls to the west and Rochester and other points east. 

“Things have changed dramatically in terms of the way we deliver what we want,” Pietrzak explained. Today’s tourist, he said, is looking for “experience tourism” and places in and around Medina can offer that.

As Bent’s Opera House is only in its beginning restoration stages, Pietrzak said he was not prepared to ask the MBA for any monetary support yet. “I want to propose a plan that makes sense for downtown and Bent’s and the ORG,” he said. “Just saving and restoring the opera house won’t sustain it unless we have a plan.”

He did note, though, that once finished, Bent’s should be looked at as a possible showcase on the Sandstone Trail.

“Bent’s could be the beginning of the experience as a building that symbolizes the Sandstone Trail,” he said.

Pietrzak said that at the current time all he asked of the MBA was its support.

“I’m not asking for money because we don’t have a budget yet, but we do want your participation and we do want you to be a partner with us and support this plan’s development,” he stated.

MBA President Cindy Robinson said that as a local business owner she would like to be involved. The organization would need to have further discussions before making any decisions as a whole, she added.

Another decision yet to be made was whether the MBA should invest in a web-based video to be placed on the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce website.

Jackie Battis of the Rochester-based company CGI visited with the MBA Tuesday morning to give the group a second sales pitch.

“A video would show a person why they should choose to come here,” Battis said. In years past, Battis said informed tourists would call the local chamber offices to get a feel for what to do during a visit. During a recent visit to a small North Carolina town, Battis said one official told her that practice has changed because while leadership has aged, customers and tourists have not.

“The generation looking to take a trip today has grown up in a digital world,” Battis said. “There’s a lot going on here, and we can record it and then advertise the whole area through the Chamber’s website.”

At a previous meeting, a different CGI representative spoke to the MBA about the web video possibility. Battis was back on Tuesday to clarify some concerns and answer some more questions. The MBA will continue to examine the pros and cons of the video option before making any final decisions at a later date.

Also on Tuesday, it was announced that tickets for the annual Ale in Autumn event are on sale. The tasting tour through downtown Medina is scheduled for Saturday, September 28. They are available at Ashlee’s Place and the East Center Street Stop and Shop in Medina and the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce office in Albion. They are also available online at aleinautumn.com.