Main Street Program Q&A with Becky Axilbund of Middletown

What do you think it means to be a Main Street Manager?  What role and responsibilities do you have in your community?

Being a Main Street Manager is a cross between the elected officials and the Town administrator.  To manage the organization, I manage time, money, skills, and provide a good dose of cheerleading to our awesome volunteers!  I also get to be a little like the elected officials in that I sincerely want to talk with people in the Main Street district – the businesses, the property owners, the residents, and get to know them.  That is part of my job, and probably the part that is the most fun for me.  It is also my responsibility to be a host.  If someone is visiting Town, I may not be the first person to greet them, but I do get to talk to them about the history of town, what to see hear, what to do, and what is fun to do nearby.    

My role is to be an advocate for the business owners and the unofficial town cheerleader.   I think Middletown is a very special place with warm and friendly people.   I promote the downtown district, its businesses, buildings, and bring people to visit – through events or advertising.  Main Street Middletown has five program areas:  economic development, design, and promotions.  I manage the nonprofit organization, we plan four awesome events each year, participate in at least three others, help create marketing materials, create social media content, write grants, manage a façade improvement program, work on business retention strategies, and right now overseeing the rehabilitation of two historic buildings, and trying to survive a major road reconstruction project, and like we all joke at the Town staff meetings, other duties as assigned by the Burgess and Commissioners!   

How long have you worked as a Main Street Manager, and what has been your biggest accomplishment so far?

I have been working here since September 2011.  In fact, I think this week would be my anniversary date! 

One of my biggest accomplishments was being asked by the Burgess to co-chair the Town’s 250th Anniversary.  This was such an honor to me.  The other big accomplishment has been the purchase of two little buildings for Main Street to use as our office and to serve as a welcome center that we are currently raising funds to rehabilitate the space. 

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

The most rewarding aspect has been to hear people tell me my work has made a difference. Everyone wants to feel like their work is appreciated and that it has meaning.  I have really enjoyed getting to know this town, getting to know its history, the people, and feeling like I belong here more than just an employee in a town, that I am a valued person in the community.

Sometimes it has been the really fun small things, like helping to pick out the Town Christmas tree, or getting to greet Santa Claus at Christmas in the Valley and walking with him from the firetruck to the Town Hall!   

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

I am a classic people pleaser.  If I feel that someone is unhappy with me, it bugs me!  And even though I know I can’t make everyone happy, I still strive to do so. 

How would you describe the vibe of your main street?

Genuine.  Honest.  Friendly.  Good-hearted people.  Hardworking. 

What are three things that you think people should know about your Main Street but probably don’t?

1.  Green Street parallels Main Street to the north.  It was once the area used as the public green for horses so folks could put their horse to pasture while they attended business – thus the name Green Street. 

2.  Rutherford B. Hayes was injured during the Civil War and was nursed back to health in a home in Middletown.   Although, I know Civil War buffs know this already! 

3.  We love our Ice Cream!  Antique cans that people used to purchase Ice cream from Main’s were really big!  Like gallons.  And even today, LDS has the oldest Hershey’s Ice Cream vendor license, More Ice Cream is an iconic front-porch ice-cream eating experience, and out in the Valley, is South Mountain Creamery. 

What do you love to do for fun in Middletown?

Well, obviously, eat Ice Cream! 

What is your vision for the future of your Main Street?

My personal vision is to see the Main Street district brimming with well-kept historical buildings, colorful plants in beautiful planters, public art tucked into small spaces that please and surprise, businesses that are booming, businesses that continue to he the heartbeat of the community, and fun events that continue to attract generations of families – I love events where it is Mom and Dad with a stroller or two, and Grandma and Grandpa a few steps back, just smiling!