Main Street Business Insights

Join host Dr. Matt Wagner, Chief Program Officer at Main Street America, as he travels the country, taking a deep dive into the personal journeys of downtown and neighborhood entrepreneurs. Each week we showcase a small business owner, who will share the story of starting, maintaining, and evolving their business. These are stories that frequently go unheard and unnoticed but offer us valuable lessons as to how Main Street businesses have overcome adversity, and successfully made business model shifts in ever-changing economic environments.

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Episodes

5 days ago

In this episode of Main Street Business Insights, Matt sits down with Jennifer Jones, co-owner of Good Times Coal Fired Pizza and Pub in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. Located in historic Big Stone Gap Main Street, Good Times is a coal-fired pizzeria and pub, music venue, and community gathering place. In the heart of Appalachian coal country, the coal-fired pizzeria also nods to the area’s unique heritage and geography. 
Jennifer and her husband Brian purchased the business from the previous owner in 2021, soon after relocating to Big Stone Gap from northern California. The move from California to Virginia had been a long-time dream of Jennifer’s, who has an affinity for the Appalachian Mountains, but landing in Big Stone Gap was largely due to coincidence. When Brian and Jennifer were visiting the area looking for a town to put down roots, they stopped in Big Stone Gap (at the very restaurant they would later own) for a bite to eat. They were met with such a welcoming atmosphere and kind people that they stopped their search then and there. “It was like Big Stone Gap was saying, ‘Pick us!’” said Jennifer. 
Brian and Jennifer have a background in entrepreneurship and were interested in starting or purchasing a business once they got settled. When the previous owner of Good Times announced they were selling, Brian and Jennifer jumped on the opportunity. Since taking over, they have completed a kitchen renovation, added community events, and more. 
In this conversation, they discuss why Jennifer and Brian chose to relocate to Big Stone Gap, their experience of owning a downtown business in a new community, and how they’ve grown and expanded the existing business into something unique to them. 

Wednesday Feb 14, 2024

In this episode of Main Street Business Insights, Matt sits down with Janet Hurn, co-founder of Future Ready Consulting in Cincinnati, Ohio. 
Future Ready Consulting is a technology-focused marketing consulting firm, specializing in supporting small business owners with digital skills. Janet was also one of 10 small business coaches who provided free training to small business owners in rural areas through Main Street America’s Grow with Google Digital Coaches program in 2023.  
In their conversation, they discuss Janet’s background as a physicist, and her path from the world of academia into entrepreneurship. Janet’s gift for making complicated subject matter understandable has helped her successfully bridge her professions: teaching university-level physics and coaching small business owners to use AI and other digital tools.  
Janet breaks down how small business owners can use technology to streamline and optimize their administrative processes and marketing efforts, the importance of continuing to adapt your marketing strategy, and simple ways business owners can use artificial intelligence to save time and money. 
Further Reading: Future Ready Consulting | Main Street Ohio | Main Street Digital Coaches | Grow with Google Training with Janet Hurn | Virtual Co-Working App, Focusmate

Wednesday Feb 07, 2024

In this episode of Main Street Business Insights, Matt sits down with Derrick Braziel, owner of Pata Roja Taqueria and co-founder of MORTAR, in Cincinnati, Ohio. 
In their conversation, they discuss Derrick’s origins as an entrepreneur, which began in 2014 with the launch of MORTAR, an organization that enables historically marginalized entrepreneurs to access the resources needed to start and run successful businesses.  
Out of his participation in a MORTAR program, Derrick was able to test out his own business idea: a taco truck. A decade later, Derrick’s food truck, Pata Roja Taqueria, is thriving – and he’s actively working towards setting up a brick-and-mortar restaurant expected to open this year. 
Matt and Derrick also discuss the rarely discussed but prevalent issues of burnout, isolation, and loneliness facing many business owners, and how Derrick has learned to cope, adapt, and learn from his own experiences with them.  
Further Reading: Pata Roja Taqueria | MORTAR | Main Street Ohio |

Wednesday Jan 31, 2024

Welcome to Season 2 of Main Street Business Insights! In our first episode of the season, you’ll hear from host Matt Wagner about his predictions for the small business landscape in 2024. This episode focuses on the macroeconomic technology and societal trends that he believes will impact the work of Main Street leaders and the businesses we seek to nurture and support. Given the topics and guests coming up in Season 2, this episode is meant to lay out the issues, trends, and shifts that our business owners are likely to experience in the coming year.  
Matt will break down his predictions from last year – the misses, the wins, and a push prediction from 2023. Plus, he’ll use data, stories, and anecdotal evidence to make his six predictions for 2024.  
Further Reading: 2024 Predictions Blog | 2023 Predictions Blog | 2022 Predictions Blog 

Wednesday Jan 24, 2024

We’re hard at work on season two, capturing fresh conversations with business owners around the country. In the meantime, we wanted to put out some bonus episodes with highlights from season one. Each of the three bonus episodes will focus on a different theme, and will be released in the weeks leading up to the launch of season 2 in late January.
In this bonus episode, you'll hear from small business owners from our first season who make connecting with their community a top priority. They share tips on how to build strong relationships with local people and organizations -- and build the case for why other small business owners should consider integrating community development into their core practices. 
This episode features:
Christine Hollerbach, CEO of Hollerbach's German Restaurant in Sanford, Florida.
Listen to the full episode here.
Jamie and Jerry Baker, co-owners of Trendy Teachers in Rome, Georgia
Listen to the full episode here.
Martha Moore and Ashley Owens, co-owners and founders of Martha & Ash in Camden, South Carolina
Listen to the full episode here.
Kenneth Bentley, co-host of The Barbershop Conversation podcast, based in Goldsboro, Florida.
Listen to the full episode here.
Harvey Williams, co-founder and CEO of Delta Dirt Distillery in Helena, Arkansas
Listen to the full episode here.
Terrand Smith, founder and CEO of 37 Oaks in Chicago, Illinois
Listen to the full episode here.
Danny Reynolds, owner of Stephenson's of Elkhart in Elkhart, Indiana
Listen to the full episode here.
Lindsay McDonald Goodson, CEO of Keith McDonald Plumbing in Milledgeville, Georgia
Listen to the full episode here.
Amber Lambke, co-founder and CEO of Maine Grains in Skowhegan, Maine. 
Listen to the full episode here.
Anette Soto Landeros, co-owner of Casa Azul Coffee and President and CEO of the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Fort Worth, Texas
Listen to the full episode here.

Wednesday Jan 10, 2024

While we work on season two, capturing fresh conversations with business owners around the country, enjoy the second of three bonus episodes, featuring some of our favorite moments from season one. This week’s episode we’ve gathered some of the best advice we heard from entrepreneurs and community leaders across the country. First up is Christina Hollerbach, second generation owner of her family’s restaurant in Sanford, Florida. She shares some great insights into how Main Street businesses can create and foster strong brand identities.

Wednesday Dec 20, 2023

We’re hard at work on season two, capturing fresh conversations with business owners around the country. In the meantime, we wanted to put out some bonus episodes with highlights from season one. Each of the three bonus episodes will focus on a different theme, and this week we’re hearing about how local entrepreneurs have leveraged the power of a Main Street community to establish, maintain, and grow their ventures.
 
This episode features:
- Amber Lambke, co-founder and CEO of Maine Grains in Skowhegan, Maine. Listen to the full episode here.
- Kenneth Bentley, Davion Hampton, Emory Green Jr., The Barbershop Conversation podcast team in Goldsboro, Florida. Listen to the full episode here.
- Christina Hollerbach, CEO of Hollerbach's German Restaurant in Sanford, Florida. Listen to the full episode here.
- Harvey Williams, CEO of Delta Dirt Distillery in Helena, Arkansas. Listen to the full episode here.
- Anette Soto Landeros, co-owner of Casa Azul Coffee and President and CEO of the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Fort Worth, Texas. Listen to the full episode here. In this episode, Anette refers to the GM on Main Street grant. To learn about this program, please click here.
 

Wednesday Oct 18, 2023

In this episode of Main Street Business Insights, Matt sits down with Jamie and Jerry Baker, co-owners and founders of Trendy Teachers, a teaching boutique and educational toy store located in downtown Rome, Georgia. A “unique boutique” for teachers, Trendy Teachers provides classroom supplies, décor, custom clothing, and educational toys and materials both through an online store and their brick-and-mortar shop in downtown Rome. 
Trendy Teachers opened in 2020 towards the beginning of the pandemic. Jamie, a retired teacher, and her husband Jerry, who previously worked in corporate retail, were both going through career transitions at the time. While searching for her next vocational step, Jamie learned from local teacher friends that all the nearby teaching supply stores had closed. Teachers had to drive more than an hour to Atlanta to purchase supplies in-person. She approached Jerry with the idea of launching a teaching supply store in Rome – and with his background in corporate retail, he was on board.  
Three years later, Trendy Teachers has now moved to a larger location and added an educational toy store arm to the business. This fast-paced growth can be attributed to Jamie and Jerry’s quick adaptation to a bricks-and-clicks strategy and a consistent and strategic marketing strategy that is highly targeted to their specific audience. 
In their conversation, Matt, Jamie, and Jerry discuss their unique path to entrepreneurship, pivoting their business strategy to appeal to broader audiences, the importance of community and collaboration, and advice for other business owners. 
Further Reading: Learn about Trendy Teachers | Learn about Historic Downtown Rome | Learn about Georgia Main Street |

Wednesday Oct 11, 2023

In this episode of Main Street Business Insights, Matt sits down with Anette Soto Landeros, co-owner of Casa Azul Coffee and President and CEO of the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Fort Worth, Texas.  
Prior to her current roles, Anette spent 12 years working in federal government, first as an analyst in the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington D.C., and later in the Inspector General’s office in Fort Worth. Raised in Texas, moving to Fort Worth was something of a homecoming – she fell in love with the community, and soon became involved with various community non-profits and business-serving organizations, such as serving on the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce board. In 2019, she took on the full-time role of President and CEO. 
Not long after, in 2021, Anette and her husband Joseph Landeros opened Casa Azul Coffee. Casa Azul is the first and only coffee shop in Fort Worth’s Northside, which according to the latest census, has a 78 percent Hispanic population and is considered one of four Latino “Barrios” in Fort Worth. While residents had long been asking for a coffee franchise to open in their neighborhood, they were repeatedly told that they weren’t the target demographic. Anette and her husband were already considering opening a business in the neighborhood – but when they heard this, they knew their charge. 
Today, you can find the appropriately named Casa Azul in a brightly painted cobalt-blue, aqua, and kelly green house in the heart of the Northside district. Serving Latin-inspired coffee and pastries such as pan dulce, conchas, churro lattes, matcha-coladas, and more, Casa Azul not only provides coffee to locals, but also unapologetically celebrates residents’ culture and heritage. 
In their conversation, Matt and Anette discuss her path to entrepreneurship, how her experience in public policy informs her work, her thoughts on creating economic growth while lessening the impact of gentrification and displacement, and her advice for other business owners. 
Further Reading: Learn about Casa Azul Coffee | Learn about the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce | Learn about Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s GM on Main Grant Project | Read a Main Spotlight blog about the Historic Northside District authored by Anette | Learn about Fort Worth Main Street | Learn about Texas Main Street 

Wednesday Oct 04, 2023

In this episode of Main Street Business Insights, Matt sits down with Danny Reynolds, owner and president of Stephenson’s of Elkhart, an independently owned high-end fashion retailer in downtown Elkhart, Indiana. For more than 90 years, Stephenson’s has undergone several transformations – from custom tailoring to everyday fashions to special occasions – always with a strong focus on customer service and community involvement. 
Stephenson’s opened its doors in October 1931 as an upscale, appointment-only dress shop. Since the mid-1960s, the business has been owned by the Reynolds family – first by Danny’s parents, then transitioning ownership to Danny in 1994.  
When Danny took over as owner in the mid-1990s, change was on the horizon. Small businesses across the country, particularly retail, were facing an uncertain economic future. In the height of the big box store boom with online shopping on the horizon, Danny knew that if Stephenson’s was going to survive on Main Street, they would need to provide services and meet needs outside of what larger retailers were already doing. So today, Stephenson’s offers high-end clothing for special occasions, including bridal, homecoming, sportswear, and high-end men’s wear. This change is largely due to the in-person experience customers prefer when purchasing special occasion wear. Over the course of the last three decades, Danny has maintained this attitude of constant adaptation and transformation, always looking for the unique ways thatStephenson’s can meet his customers where they’re at. 
In their conversation, Matt and Danny discuss the overall economic landscape for clothing retailers, how Stephenson’s continues to carve out a successful niche, and the importance of connecting with customers on a personal level as well as the community at large. 
Further Reading: Learn about Stephenson’s of Elkhart | Learn about the National Retail Federation | Learn about Downtown Elkhart | Learn about Indiana Main Street  

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