With the addition of new businesses to the downtown area, Bridge Street in Manawa is coming to life.
“I think the growth is tremendous,” said Mayor John Smith. “If you look at our downtown and how much it has changed in two years, it is incredible. Places like The Flower Pot, Oh My Goodness, Winemakers Daughter and Bridge Street Salon are just a few; these people have invested the time and the money into our community.”
Manawa Area Chamber of Commerce President Tom Squires agrees.
“I think that with the collaboration of the members of the Chamber of Commerce and the city of Manawa, we are making strides to improve the community as a whole,” said Squires. “Our theme ‘Make it Manawa’ is taking hold.”
Both said it has been a community effort.
“We needed to put ‘unity’ back into community and now everyone is involved,” said Smith. “The residential community is just as much involved as the business community. Even the school is involved.”
Squires pointed out the efforts of the Downtown Revitalization Committee and also the addition of Brenda Vander Zanden as promotional manager for the Chamber.
“There has been excitement in Manawa due to the events that have been held since the hiring of a promotional manager and also the projects that the Downtown Revitalization Committee has taken on,” he said.
One of those projects was the downtown flower project, where Little Wolf High School students, under the direction of tech ed teacher Dan Koehler, built benches with flowers boxes on them to brighten the view on Bridge Street.
“The bench/planters are just one example of the successful collaboration we enjoy with our school system, committee and downtown businesses,” said Vander Zanden. “Several downtown business owners and community volunteers are working to continue the beautification projects, which attract people to the downtown.”
She said this spring, committee volunteers will paint the exterior of the former Linjer grocery store to make it more appealing to potential buyers.
“This is very much an active, hands-on committee,” she said.
Events such as Ladies Night Out and Taste of Home Cooking Show also gave the community an additional boost.
“Small towns, like Manawa, can’t solely depend on the internal local dollars they earn,” said Vander Zanden. “They have to draw dollars into their communities from outlying areas. Quality events not only draw in dollars from outlying areas and retain local dollars, they bring people together in a fun environment.”
The community would not be what it is today without the solid foundation of its long-time business owners.
“Manawa is making a comeback,” said Kirby Linjer, who has operated several businesses in the community over the past 20 years. “People with unique talents can set up shop here and draw even more people in.”
Jane Suehs, of Suehs Sales and Services, sees the downtown growth as a good thing as well.
“Manawa is a nice little town,” she said. “We all work together to make it a better place.”
The goal is to bring even more business to Manawa and to keep the people shopping there.
“Bringing a hardware store here is my main focus right now,” said Smith. “There is also a high demand for a fitness center. We are looking for businesses that will complement the businesses that we already have.”
Smith said Manawa is a beautiful community that needs to keep expanding.
“‘Make it Manawa’ isn’t just a slogan, it’s the way we do business,” said Vander Zanden. “Our Chamber welcomes many types of businesses – traditional brick and mortar, home-based, mobile vendor and Internet. Business today isn’t the same as it was even 20 years ago, and we must adapt with those changes. It is difficult sometimes, but with change comes new opportunity for growth, revenue and success.”
She said the young and old alike need to be ambassadors for the community. “Each citizen of Manawa has a responsibility to communicate the wonderful quality of life Manawa has to offer; and ask ourselves ‘Why not Manawa?'”