BID Benefits: How I leverage BID services to benefit my business
By Dorthea Gamble, Owner, Trunc
What drew me to Northern Liberties in 1998, was the peaceful coexistence between races, cultures, and generations. Full of artists, eccentrics, kind, hardworking people, and mom and pop shops, the neighborhood made me feel at home. Although it has changed in many ways, it’s still the
makeup of Northern Liberties today and I am happy to be a part of it.
For many years, my partner and I thought about opening a retail store that could serve the residents and draw in visitors, but it took a while to finally find the right mix of offerings. I wanted our store to be warm and inviting and allow shoppers to linger and discover unique artisan things. When we fin
ally found the right mix, we decided to move ahead and opened the doors to Trunc in 2018. We filled the store with creative, environmentally conscience bespoke furniture, home furnishings, clothing, art, and jewelry that we have carefully curated and collected. We feel blessed to have our store in the neighborhood in which we live and hope to be here for a long time.
To be successful, we know the neighborhood needs to remain a vibrant and interesting place to live and do business. This is why we were pleased to learn that our business community had the foresight to organize and invest in an organization that provides services to our businesses and benefits our community. The Northern Liberties Business Improvement District (NLBID) was formed in 2018 through assessments on commercial properties and in just three short years, they are already having a positive impact.
Business Improvement Districts (BID) are formed when a business community wants to enhance what their city services cannot effectively provide, and they have been the answer for business communities both nationally and in other Philly neighborhoods for years. Typically, BIDs are formed to maintain the streetscape, like providing trash cans and street cleaning. Some are also known for hosting networking events for neighborhood businesses and some for creating and hosting community events or marketing their neighborhoods. Our BID does all these things, and they are doing them well.
We all can see an improvement in the look and feel of our community since the NLBID was organized. If you notice the street cleaners along 2nd street, those are contracted by the NLBID to clear litter and sweep twice a week. The Big Belly trash cans you see along 2nd street, Girard, and Spring Garden are also the result of the NLBID’s efforts. This summer, through all the construction, the NLBID provide the banners and directional signs that let visitors know that we were still open for business. All these little things go a big way to make our neighborhood more inviting and attractive to residents and our customers.
What you might not know about BIDs, however, and especially about the Northern Liberties BID, is that it provides business owners numerous opportunities to increase our revenue. Most businesses can see the direct benefit of an NLBID when the street cleaners are at work or when they see directional banners installed. However, the indirect benefit that comes from the NLBID is something they feel when they know how to take advantage of the NLBID activities.
While we only closed for a short time during last year’s pandemic, we were able to pivot the business online and successfully keep it going. Some of that success I can attribute directly to the NLBID. Their Artist at Work event allowed me to host an artist right outside my store which drew in customers and gave the street a lively vibe. We have continually seen significant increases in foot traffic and revenue on days when the NLBID is hosting an event, so we quickly learned to participate in some way whenever the NLBID schedules an event.
This fall, when the NLBID hosted a Holiday Pop Up to showcase local vendors in the neighborhood’s vacant commercial spaces, Trunc leveraged the event by having local musicians play outside our door on the sidewalk. Every time we participated in an NLBID event, we benefited from the foot traffic and had a successful business day. The NLBID did the hard work of bringing people into the neighborhood, all we needed to do was invite them into the store.
During the shutdown, the NLBID provided immediate, almost daily updates which proved to be invaluable. Things were changing rapidly, and we needed information to make decisions. The NLBID’s ability to inform and alert us to the shutdown orders and the requirements to re-open helped us make the right decisions at the right time. They also hosted workshops and brought in experts who could help us pivot to online sales and get creative with social media. The staff is knowledgeable about the city’s inner workings and their deep connections helped get us through the worst of it.
Trunc has also benefited from the NLBID’s public relations efforts. The news cycle in Philly moves fast and the NLBID’s PR consultant is very adept at knowing what is newsworthy and responding quickly. We have been the subject of at least four stories in 2020 and each one has resulted in great coverage and new customers. Of course, there have been times where I have had 15 minutes’ notice before I had to be somewhere or a reporter walked into my store, but the result is worth it, and I know now when the call comes to answer it and be ready for anything.
Acting on my feeling that this NLBID could greatly enhance our business corridor, I decided to join the Board so I could have input into its mission and goals. Soon after joining, I realized I was the sole retailer and that it was up to me to represent our industry and communicate our needs in contrast to what service businesses or restaurants might need. When events intended to drive foot traffic were scheduled, I needed to make sure they made sense for retail hours. I realized that they needed my voice and they listened and made changes to accommodate retailers based on my input. As a business owner, we can invest our time into a lot of things that might pay off. To me, the BID is certainly one that does. Getting involved is my best advice. Attend a workshop, join the mailing list, or be involved in their next event. You don’t have to be a Board Member to benefit from their efforts.
We have all seen the development happening in the area and we are aware of at least 2,000 new residential units coming online in the Northern Liberties in the next 5 years. The NLBID has been instrumental in keeping track of the development and is envisioning the retail needs that will come with the new residents. This kind of foresight is invaluable and something we are going to need as we continue to grow and develop. Change is inevitable. I have seen it in the Northern Liberties and want to be active in shaping it. Being an active part of the NLBID is one of the best ways I can think of to grow with the neighborhood while finding success for your business along the way.