To help promote the launch of the America’s Main Streets Contest; which began on March 1, we hit the iconic Route 66 Highway to educate communities about the importance and economic impacts that Main Streets – and the small businesses you find on them – have on local economies.
We traveled to 12 cities, in six states along 1,400+ miles of Route 66. With a fitting name the “Great American Route 66” tour, became our seventh road trip. The purpose of these trips being to interview and engage with independent business owners, their customers, Main Streets groups and community advocates. With the support of our founding sponsor STIHL Inc, co-sponsor FCA US, associate sponsors Tire Pros, Do it Best Corp. and PPG Pittsburgh Paints, and partners National Main Street Center, National Federation of Independent Businesses, North American Retail Hardware Association, Hardware Retailing Magazine – we were able to make this trip happen.
After picking up our decked out RAM ProMaster City Van, graciously provided by RAM Commercial, we made a surprise stop in Springfield, Missouri, known as the “birthplace” of Route 66. Springfield gave us a warm welcome by putting on classic car show, inviting neighbors and businesses within the community, and even presenting us with a few local products and goods made in their town.
On Monday, March 14, we met up with the rest of our team in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to begin our five day journey.
What we discovered in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was a rich history dating back to the early 1900s, and present-day spirit and excitement for emerging independent businesses. During the day, we journeyed to Stockyards City Main Street to discover how their Main Street program is “keeping the West alive;” while bringing business owners and community members together with events like ‘Wines of the West’ and the Stampede.
After Oklahoma City, we headed to Amarillo, Texas where we met with two independent businesses that are keeping it “in the family.” We also toured the Historic Route 66 district in Amarillo and stopped by Amarillo’s Route 66 Store for a few gifts, and lunch at La Fiesta.
On day three of our trek, we headed to Albuquerque, visiting a long-time Do it Best member-owner, along the way. Then we met up with the director of the Nob Hill Main Street to learn more about their upcoming events; which will help them celebrate their neighborhood’s 100th birthday. We interviewed a men’s clothing store that specialized in American-made clothing; then, we grabbed a quick, early St. Patrick’s Day, lunch at O’Neill’s Pub.
As a tired haze began to appear on our faces, we set off for Homco Lumber in Flagstaff, Arizona, on the fourth day. Homco Lumber has a smart and unique onboarding process for their employees and they are incredibly involved in the employee’s lives and their own community. We ended the afternoon with a scenic drive through the Oak Creek Canyon into Sedona, AZ, and a pit stop at Sedona Main Street Center – where their director is finding new ways to unite local merchants in the area.
Finally, our last day began sooner than expected, as we were arriving in the Los Angeles metro area for our final three interviews. For our last and final interview, we met with Ray Bahn of P.O. Bahn & Sons. In addition to running a successful STIHL servicing dealership, Bahn and his son are part of the Santa Monica wildfire team.
Throughout the week we tested our ability to shop, stay, eat and play local the entire time. We booked independent hotels; some with more charm than your “local” Holiday Inn. We also tried new restaurants, diners, and a brewery, guided by the Independent We Stand mobile app.
Overall, the trip was a complete success and we can’t wait to share all of their stories throughout the remainder of this year.