Editors note: This is part of an ongoing series of conversations with city and county officials, beginning in Carter County before branching out into greater Southern Oklahoma. This week features Ardmore Main Street Authority general manager, Jeff DiMiceli.


Q: How have you seen Main Street change in your time with the Main Street Authority?

A: “Oh, I absolutely have. When I started getting involved in Main Street the change was already happening but it was slow. We still had a lot of hurdles, and we still have a lot of hurdles to overcome, but one of the main things I have seen is more of a cohesiveness between property owners, business owners, and merchants. They all have a desire, almost a passion now, to see Main Street blossom, and that’s quite different from what it was in the past. We’re seeing them work together now. We have a merchant alliance group that meets regularly to come up with plans and figure out how to promote the downtown and how to work
together as a unit rather than individual stores or business. As a result of that, the synergy has just mushroomed in the downtown area. To me that’s one of the most exciting things that I’ve seen. Of course, there is a lot of physical change, too. We’re seeing a lot more pride in the overall look of the district.”
Q: Do you think online sales have changed, or shaped, Main Street over the years?

A: “I think it’s shaped not just Main Street but all stores. Some of the things we have going for us are that our Main Street businesses are real people. You’re dealing with a real person, and they bring in a lot of stuff that you don’t find online. You can’t find that particular stuff, and you get the personal touch. But, past all of that, one of the things you’re doing is supporting your neighbors. Online has just totally changed the whole complexion of retail, and it’s hard. We have to figure out how to get people to come down here and see what we have because if they did they would be pleasantly surprised.”
Q: What do you think is the greatest service the Main Street Authority provides to business owners?

A: “I think one of the things we have strived hardest to do is to become a viable advocate for the downtown businesses and shops. There is strength in numbers and we give them a point they can come to. We are able to bring all the issues together and discuss it all with the merchants and think of ways to help solve those problems. One of the services we do provide that I think is very good, and we’ve been doing more and more of this over the years, is promotion and advertising for the district as a whole. One of the things we recently did was an online survey about our downtown, and one of the questions was ‘what would you call your district, if it were exactly like you wanted it?’ Because one of the things we’re aware of is the district needs to have an identification. Every town has a historic district, every town has a downtown but what would best describe this district? So, we have casually introduced the Depot District. With the coming of the train, it is going to become an icon for the city and for this area. So, we are just beginning to claim this as the Depot District. This is the Depot District, like the West End. We want people to think of Ardmore and think of the Depot District. At the state level, we offer facade design and training to store merchants in things like point of sale. We can bring in people to help with business plans and social media strategy. We have a lot we can offer because we have this national group that we work through.”
Q:  How has the Ardmore Main Street Authority changed in its goals since its inception?
A: “I think our goals are the same, but how we do them now is different. The whole national program has changed and been refreshed over the last couple of years. So I don’t think the goals have changed, I just think our methods have changed. We’re still committed to making a vibrant downtown district, and we’re seeing involvement with the merchants is more important than just an event. We’re trying to do everything we can do, and have taken more of a hands-on approach in the last 10 years.”

Q: What has been your biggest challenge as the Main Street Authority Director?
A: “Trying to figure out how to effectively balance the needs of the merchants, the city, the district and the consumer because we’re dealing with all of them. Each one of these have their own priorities and we have to balance all of those and figure out how to make it come to life in this district. You want the merchants to be successful. You want the city to grow and to increase the tax base. You want the district to grow in its appeal and have business and interested investors to come in. And you have to have consumers. So, trying to balance all of those when we don’t have any kind of regulation authority or anything like that makes us play with a kind of hand game that gets very confusing. Sometimes it’s exciting, sometimes it’s frustrating, sometimes you feel like you’ve got it, and a lot of times you wonder how it’s going to happen. It’s all about being persistent and consistent to keep plugging along. You have to keep the vision that we have out here and work for the good of all of them so the Depot District can develop into the vibrant entertainment place that it can be. We’ve seen other cities do it, and we can do it while putting our uniquely Ardmore spin on it.”