BERRYVILLE — Under new leadership, Berryville Main Street plans to enter new territory.

For almost 30 years, the nonprofit organization has endeavored to help downtown businesses prosper, attract new businesses and make the district more vibrant.

Having recently overcome both financial mismanagement by a previous director and the COVID-19 pandemic, it now aims to extend its reach throughout Clarke County.

“I don’t think people realize how many business are in the (surrounding) county and contribute to its economy,” said Michelle Marino, the organization’s new board president. “I think its naïve not to include them.”

Several people currently involved in Berryville Main Street have businesses outside the town, she mentioned.

“We don’t want to exclude anyone,” Marino said, referring to county businesses, “because we all benefit from each other.”

Businesses say customers from elsewhere often ask them for recommendations on where to shop and eat locally, and they refer customers to each other, she said.

Specific locations of businesses won’t affect how they’re able to participate in Berryville Main Street, Marino pledges.

“We want to be an advocate and promotion arm for businesses” across the county, she said. “Everyone will have equal representation and be equally promoted.”

The concept sounds similar to that of a chamber of commerce, she acknowledged. The Winchester-based Top of Virginia Regional Chamber serves Clarke County businesses, a previous Berryville-based chamber having dissolved years ago.

Still, evolving into a chamber is “probably something we’ll be looking at” eventually, Marino said.

For the foreseeable future, though, the organization will continue to be known as Berryville Main Street, even with a countywide focus.

One reason why is that Berryville is the commercial center of the mostly rural and agricultural county. And, Main Street — with its shops, restaurants and other small businesses — is the town’s commercial center.

With that in mind, Marino said, “we want to keep some consistency” so the community isn’t overwhelmed by changes occurring with the organization.

Another factor is that Berryville Main Street is affiliated with Virginia Main Street, a state-sponsored program that helps localities revitalize their historic downtown areas.

The local organization wants to find sources of assistance, such as grant and loan programs, to help businesses.

However, “they have to communicate with us” and let the organization know their needs, Marino said.

Owners sometimes get so preoccupied with trying to take care of their businesses’ needs that they don’t realize sources of assistance are available locally, or that cooperating with other businesses can benefit them all, she added.

A “Business Meet and Greet” will be held at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Barns of Rose Hill for business owners to get to know each other, learn about Berryville Main Street and voice ideas for promoting businesses. The Barns, a performing arts venue on Chalmers Court, and the Clarke County Office of Economic Development and Tourism are co-hosting the event.

Felicia Hart, the county’s economic development and tourism director, favors Berryville Main Street taking a countywide focus. She said that businesses elsewhere in the county — Boyce or White Post, for instance — may not be aware of ones in Berryville where they can refer customers or which can provide products and services they need.

Her office and Berryville Main Street, which is based in the former municipal building at 23 E. Main, cooperate in trying to attract new businesses downtown.

“We have some real opportunities” to work together on other projects, too, Hart said.

An example she mentioned is having local artists design murals that can be painted on the exteriors of buildings. The idea is that out-of-towners will come to Berryville to view the artistry, and then they will visit businesses.

Marino said she and other Berryville Main Street representatives already are talking with artists and building owners about the possibility.

A resident of the town for almost 12 years, Marino is the office administrator for the local branch of financial services firm Edward D. Jones & Co. She has two sons who attend the Clarke County Public Schools.

She joined Berryville Main Street’s board last spring and was quickly elected vice president.

Former board president Kim Ragland, who ran the Boyd’s Nest restaurant downtown, recently moved to Iowa. Before she left, she resigned and handed over the presidency to Marino.

Late summer and fall is “our busiest time of the year” at the organization, Marino pointed out.

It held the annual Summer’s End Cruise-In during August and the downtown yard sale in September. It also was involved in activities surrounding Clarke County High School’s recent homecoming parade.

Attention now will turn to organizing holiday-themed events. Those include “Shop Small Saturday,” an event encouraging shoppers to visit locally-operated stores on the weekend after Thanksgiving; the annual downtown parking meter decoration contest and display; and the Christmas parade and tree lighting at Rose Hill Park during the weekend of Dec. 3-4.

Berryville Main Street aims to develop more family-oriented activities throughout the year to draw people downtown, said Marino.

— Contact Mickey Powell at mpowell@winchesterstar.com

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