Respondents to Port Main Street questionnaire also want more activities, praise pedestrian friendliness
Two things that downtown Port Washington most needs are things for people of all ages to do and shops that are open longer, according to a recent survey.
The survey, part of a strategic planning initiative by Port Main Street Inc., will be used by the organization as it develops its goals for next year, Executive Director Lauren Richmond said.
“There are pieces from that survey that every committee in Main Street can use,” she said.
“My hope is these survey results get into the hands of someone thinking about opening a business downtown. They can help direct people, and that, to me, would be a success for Main Street.”
The survey, which was developed with state Main Street officials, was answered by 357 people — far more than the 100 to 200 expected, and included residents, people who work downtown, property and business owners, as well as people visiting the community, Richmond said.
“We’re really happy people took the time to respond,” she said.
Many of those who responded — 69% — visit downtown at least once a week, most often for dining (93%), special events (69%), shopping (66%) or recreation (54%).
Their top destinations were Pear & Simple (90 mentions), Twisted Willow and Dockside Deli restaurants (83 mentions each), Pasta Shoppe (80), Tello’s (71), Smith Bros. Coffee House (62), Port Washington State Bank (61), Duluth Trading Co. and NewPort Shores restaurant (54 each), Bernie’s Fine Meats (53) and Beanie’s (49).
Other destinations mentioned were the Niederkorn Library (42), Harry’s (37), Schooner Pub (35), the marina (34), Java Dock and Chocolate Chisel (33 each) and Zing boutique (26).
Downtown’s strengths were identified as the number of historic buildings that have been preserved, a positive image and pedestrian friendliness.
Things for people of all ages to do was identified as the primary need by 49% of those responding.
“That’s not news to me, but I’m happy to see people are talking about it,” Richmond said.
The need for later business hours ranked second, noted by 34% of those responding. It’s something Main Street officials have talked about for years, Richmond said.
“I’ve been hearing that a lot,” she said. “After people go out to eat, they would like to do more than just look in the windows of the shops.”
Richmond said she was also surprised that respondents requested more festivals and special events.
“What that says to me is the festivals we have aren’t necessarily what people are looking for in an event,” she said. “I think we all feel we have an awful lot of events here in Port Washington.”
The finding might prompt the organization to tweak some of its events in an attempt to meet that need, she said.
The top reasons people don’t choose downtown as a destination included a lack of diverse shopping (28%), businesses aren’t relevant to needs (24%) and difficulty parking near their destination (17%).
The oldest and youngest respondents cited the lack of parking near shops as a reason not to visit downtown, the survey notes.
When asked to prioritize improvements that should be made over the next five years, the top answers were more shopping choices (67%), more activities for families and children (58%) and improved use of and access to the lake (54%).
More shopping choices were the top need identified by people younger than 25 and those ages 46 to 65. More family activities were the top need mentioned by people aged 26 to 45, and improved lake access by those 66 and older.
When asked what businesses are needed downtown, the top responses were a bakery (41 responses), grocery or convenience store (35), bookstore (29), and a sporting goods or fishing store (21).
Daily Baking Co. opened in the Boerner Mercantile Building on Franklin Street last month, meeting that need.
More than 135 people, about one-third of those responding, wrote comments in their surveys.
Among those that reflect general themes:
“A year-round attraction to Port Washington is much needed — shopping/dining/permanent festival or fair. I love coming to Port Washington, but it’s a quick stop and shop. I’d love to bring visitors in for a half day/full day other than Fish Day.”
“As a resident, I feel that our downtown businesses do not cater to prime visitor hours on the weekends and week nights. A lot of businesses are closed after 6 p.m. People are in downtown going to restaurants and want to walk around after dinner.”
“Downtown is very quaint. Some of the restaurants could use a lot of updating. More upper-scale bars. Family-style sit-down restaurants.”
“I have been visiting Port for over 10 years and am considering retiring to your community. We love Port.”