In the category of ORGANIZATION, Best Economic Recovery Initiative, an Award of Merit is presented to: the City of Hendersonville Downtown Division for LoveHendo - Downtown Hendersonville Covid-19 Response Plan.
In March 2020, the Downtown Hendersonville Covid-19 Response Plan shifted Downtown Hendersonville’s annual workplan to a swift response action plan addressing the immediate needs of downtown businesses. It led to ongoing programs being adapted or changed to meet the new reality. The plan had five components:
1. Develop a “Safe to Shop” marketing message for downtown.
2. Launch the Hendersonville Farmer’s Market.
3. Pivot events and replace the Rhythm & Brews Concert Series with an Open Streets concept.
4. Evaluate loan or grant programs to support downtown businesses, and
5. Provide enhanced communications resources for downtown.
Within two days of the COVID-19 shutdown, the Friends of Downtown Hendersonville and the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce launched LoveHendo.com to support businesses and give them a platform to sell gift cards. It also provided the LoveHendo logo and shareable images that businesses and customers quickly adopted throughout the county. To encourage safe practices while reopening, businesses took the #SafeHendo pledge and received window decals and signage for their storefronts. The Hendersonville Farmers Market opened with #SafeHendo precautions, and the Rhythm & Brews concert series was replaced with Open Streets. Open Streets closed Main Street to vehicles and allowed businesses to use the space for social distancing and other activities. Sprinklers were set out for play and Adirondack chairs were distributed for customers to enjoy takeout. Based on evaluation and feedback, the City changed the street closure from bi-monthly to once a month and rebranded it “LoveHendo Saturday.” In addition, the City allowed outdoor dining to occur on sidewalks and parking spaces at all times.
The Friends of Downtown Hendersonville launched a microgrant program for downtown businesses to develop and test creative solutions for reopening. Sales from #LoveHendo face masks and redirected sponsorships from canceled events supported the program which provided grants for five businesses as of October 2020.
A weekly newsletter with information on government programs, downtown initiatives, and partner resources enhanced communication with downtown businesses. The Main Street Program also held weekly Zoom calls for businesses with attorneys, insurance providers, and local partners providing guidance.
Within the first week of the LoveHendo.com launch, the website had over 15,000 page views, 224 businesses submitted information for the gift card directory, and 135 businesses took the #SafeHendo Pledge.
The $13,000 investment to implement the Downtown Hendersonville COVID-19 Response Plan resulted in most retail and restaurant businesses reporting sales numbers close to previous years and having higher numbers in September and October 2020 than in a typical year.