It is difficult to reject the idea that the current economy has been hard on businesses and consumers alike, but it is undeniable that the city of Milford has become a haven for new businesses to open and existing businesses to expand. What can be described as a cultivating environment for promoting the entrepreneurial sprit, downtown Milford has seen 11 new businesses open their doors and two businesses expand their operations in the last year and a half.
Since July 2011 Anne Jenkins Art Gallery and Studio, Chris and Jenna Computers, Delaware Fitness, Milford Florist and Home Décor, Pelican Bar and Grille, Milford Gifts,The Hidden Gem Boutique, Little Posies Photography, Tout de Suite Patisserie, Gallery 37 and Service Xpress have started their businesses in the downtown Milford area. With three business choosing to close their doors, all due to unavoidable factors such as expansion needs or family health, the growth rate in Delaware’s sixth largest city is quite impressive. When asked what draws business owners to the area there is a continued refrain from business owners that they enjoy the collective commitment to seeing the downtown area grow.
Todd and Chuck of Milford Florist and Home Décor decided to open in downtown Milford last year because of their past experiences with the town. “It is a quaint little town and we have many friends in Milford,” commented Mr. Bruce. “We have served this community from our other location, including the Milford Hospital, and we love being a part of the downtown.”
In addition to eleven store fronts opening in downtown Milford, two business owners have been able to expand their services in the area over the last 6 months. The first Micha Seto, the owner of four Blooming Boutiques in lower Delaware, opened the new Milford Gifts across the street from her Blooming Boutique location on Walnut Street.
“Milford has been great for my businesses,” commented Micha when she opened the new Milford Gifts this past summer . “The people are loyal and everyone makes it easy to have a business here. Milford has every reason to succeed and I hope that Milford Gifts will give people another reason to come downtown”
Owner of Fur-baby Boutique, Sherry Shaffer, recently moved from her previous location on Walnut street to Front Street, doubling her size and the services she offers to her clients. Now offering doggie daycare in addition to her services of the pet boutique and grooming, she has been able to create a successful business model in under 2 years.
“The affordability and the central location between Kent and Sussex Counties allows me to draw customers from several surrounding areas,” comment Ms. Shaffer. “Above all else what made me choose Milford as our home was the support and encouragement from already established business owners.”
A collaborative effort by business owners, the City of Milford and Downtown Milford Inc. (DMI), a non-profit aimed at facilitating growth of businesses and promoting the downtown area as a destination, has proven to be a successful model that cities around the state of Delaware can look to when planning for future economic development.
During the same period of time, from July 2011 to present, DMI has enhanced long-established events including the downtown Farmers’ Market and the Bug and Bud Festival and created new traditions for the town of Milford including the Movies and Music on the Riverwalk, St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl, Holiday Stroll and the Paddle, Pedal and 10K walk/run.
Over the last year the organization has clocked over 6,108 volunteer hours by over 200 local residents . According to the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO) the dollar value of this time (at $16 per hour) was $97,728.
“I believe Downtown Milford Inc. and the community are successful because we collaborate on many levels with many partners to support local businesses, encourage new businesses and entice residents and visitors to the downtown area,” commented DMI Director Lee Nelson. “The Delaware Economic Development Office, Downtown Merchant’s Association and our several DMI committees are all focused on helping local businesses thrive and bring more people to shop and experience our unique historic downtown.”
With the recovery of this nationwide recession uncertain, Milford seems to be moving in one direction, forward. It is evident that Milford business owners, supporting non-profit organizations, state and local agencies and the residents of Milford themselves believe that they have the ability to create their own future.