In Other News

All good things must come to an end.

After more than 20 years in operation, merchants and board members decided to sunset the Sedona Main Street Program during a meeting held on Thursday, Jan. 12.

But instead of being disappointed, SMSP Vice President and longtime member John DiBattista said it should be looked upon not as the end of a program but rather a celebration of its achievements.

“We did what we needed to do and the fact is, it [SMSP] is no longer needed,” he said. “We no longer have the hurdles and challenges we once had. So it doesn’t make sense to keep the program going.”

He said he felt there was a lack of enthusiasm in recent years from both board members and business owners in Uptown, which also contributed to the decision to close up shop.

For 18 years, DiBattista’s wife, Anne, served as assistant executive director of the program under Holly Epright, who was executive director for 17 years.

“My wife was the heart, Holly was the brains and I was the muscle for all those years,” he said. “Now, there’s no heart, no brains and no muscle.”

Epright retired over the summer at which time Wendy Jones was hired to replace her. However, Jones was let go just before the first of the year. DiBattista said with no one at the helm, and before they hired someone new, it was time to evaluate the need for the program.

“It got to the point where it was hard to defend the program’s need,” he said.

SMSP’s area encompasses not just Uptown merchants but those along State Route 179 to Tlaquepaque as well. DiBattista said there has been talk of a merchant’s association being formed to give the business owners a louder voice in regard to expressing their wants and needs to the city.

“To that I say kudos, good luck and God bless,” he said.

Because the program had accomplished many of its goals, DiBattista said it basically came down to being an overseer of its four signature events — St. Patrick’s Parade, National Day of the Cowboy, Safe & Fun Trick-or-Treat at Halloween and Uptown Tree Lighting & Santa Visit.

At the meeting, the group discussed how the Sedona Parks and Recreation Department — which has co-hosted the parade for years — will likely take it over completely. He said he hopes the Day of the Cowboy remains while Halloween will be handled by the merchants and the lighting of the Christmas tree will be taken over by the Sedona Chamber of Commerce or Holiday Central Sedona.

DiBattista said the final challenge during the sunsetting process will be to tie up a few loose ends, which includes what to do with the $100,000 in the SMSP bank account. The board will be meeting in the next month or so to make that determination.

“Whatever we decide, we want to make sure we put it to bed lovingly,” he said.

Sedona Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jennifer Wesselhoff, a liaison to the program’s board of directors, said they’ve had a good relationship with the SMSP over the years and that they will continue to support Uptown merchants in any way they can.

“We are very proud that the Main Street Program achieved its goals for revitalization of the Uptown area,” she said. “We’d like to thank the many, many people over the years who made the SMSP a success and donated thousands of hours to make Sedona a better place to do business, shop and eat.”


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