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Village People: It Takes a Village

Meet Village Green Partners Kirsten Stripay and Jennifer Marcus.

This town means something special to every person who has chosen to live or work here. This is where families are raised, community relations are solidified and plenty of shopkeepers know you by name.

This is the real value of the place we call home: the people. We thrive on having an active business district and are lucky to have the Village with its Norman Rockwell-style charm. Don’t let a few empty windows fool you. Sewickley is thriving and getting better every day.

The two local women behind Village Green Partners have made it their very personal mission to make sure it stays that way and with even more to offer.

They have made a career out of making Sewickley grow. The payoff is not profit; it is a labor of love.

Q. What are your names and what do you do?

A. Jennifer Markus and Kirsten Stripay, co-founders of Village Green Partners, a nonprofit organization focused on promoting Sewickley.

Q. Why did you choose Sewickley as a place to live?

A. We are both graduates of and live in Sewickley. We live here because we love the small-town feel and the ability to walk to stores and restaurants. We really care about this community and wanted to do what we could to help the town thrive, so we started Village Green Partners.

Q. Village Green Partners is doing great things for this town. Where do you get your funding?

A. We get our funding from a variety of places. We have invested a significant amount of our own money in Village Green to get it started. We were hired by the borough of Sewickley to replace Town Center Associates and have a contract that pays us for 2011.

We also are funded by the stores that you see on the banners and the ones with enhanced pages on our website. And we have started to reach out to building owners for funding as well. We feel that all the groups should provide funding of some sort so we can promote the entire town. There is so much to do, and more funding is needed.

Q. The "Explore Sewickley" banners are up in town and look great. What else is on the horizon?

In addition to the banners, there are window clings on empty storefronts, there is an "Explore Sewickley" Facebook page and the "Explore Sewickley" website. We have done print advertising in the Sewickley and will be in the July issue of Whirl Magazine.

There are some exciting things coming. An "Explore Sewickley" gift card will be available soon to purchase on our website, and we will be having a contest to win some gift cards, so stay tuned for that on our Facebook page.

We are also developing a website called Sewickley Space that will be a database of all the vacant stores for lease and sale.This will benefit the building owners in town and provide one place for entrepreneurs, business owners and real estate agents to go to see what is available in Sewickley. We want to make it as easy as possible for people to get information about all aspects of Sewickley.

Q. How did you come up with the "Explore Sewickley" campaign?

A. We approached the Smith Brothers agency (owned by residents and fellow graduates) and asked them if they would be interested in helping us brand a town. They thought it was a great idea and worked with us to create the campaign. They have donated a lot of their time to make this possible.

Q. There is a perception that Sewickley is losing businesses. What new businesses have come to Sewickley recently?

A. Last year we had new businesses such as , , Simply Yogurt, , and Jewelers opened in town. Jeannette Russell reopened on Broad Street, moved to a new location on Beaver Street, and of Sewickley expanded to a larger location a few doors down.

So far this year we are seeing new places such as Floral Design and Boutique choose Sewickley to open their doors. On the horizon we are excited for the opening of East Coast Sandwiches, Vivo Kitchen and the new and improved to come to Beaver Street.

Q. What role does Village Green Partners play in new stores coming to town?

A. Rosewood Boutique is the perfect example as to how things can go well in Sewickley. A great storeowner, Kathryn , with a great business plan looking for a space, was told about Village Green Partners. We could share with her the knowledge that we had of spaces available, the right type of landlord and the right type of lease to suit her needs. We put her in touch with building owner Betsy Joseph, and it was immediately the right combination. We helped introduce her to Nancy Watts, code enforcement officer, at the borough to assist in any permits needed and explained the workings of the town so she felt confident to lean on her fellow store owners.

As ExploreSewickley.com and "Explore Sewickley" Facebook page develops we also can help new stores like her step into the community with a strong customer base and sense of community. But honestly, a store owner like Kathryn has achieved her social media and online presence very well.

Q. How else are you involved with in the community?

A. We try to be involved in as many ways as we have time for. We were on the planning committee. We sit on the Sewickley Academy Alumni Council. We go to the Youth Connect meetings. We go to the Chamber of Commerce monthly meetings, and we attend as many borough council and planning meetings as we can.

Q. What is your vision for Sewickley?

A. We really want to see a vibrant community where everyone is working together toward a similar goal. There are so many people in our community who have great ideas and want to help. We just want to get everyone connected to promote the entire community.

Q. How can people get involved?

A. Village Green Partners would love to have volunteers. Donations are welcome as well.

Visit VGP on Facebook or find out more at www.vgpsewickley.com or www.exploresewickley.com.

Stacey Sicurella June 13, 2011 at 06:42 PM
I love this story! It caught my attention since I work for a gift card company and gift cards are mentioned, but it won me over for the grassroots approach to resuscitating a village. Nice work! Stacey http://blog.giftcardpartners.com/ www.giftcardpartners.com

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