published Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Dayton promotes 'virtual' downtown

By Kimberly McMillian

Correspondent

DAYTON, Tenn. -- MainStreet Dayton soon will launch a website allowing visitors an opportunity to view city businesses and restaurants through a 360-degree perspective.

MainStreet Executive Director Anna Tromanhauser said the website, hosted by www.shopmainstreets.com, would "showcase attractions that are key to Dayton," including the historic Rhea County Courthouse.

The launch date for MainStreet Dayton's site is scheduled for late April, Tromanhauser said.

Participants will pay a "reasonable, additional fee" under $300 in addition to MainStreet Dayton's initial fee of $2,000 to join the promotional website, she said.

Colleen Fehn, co-owner of Fehn's 1891 House & Restaurant, said she is "convinced of the value" of a website appearance.

Brad Putt, the owner of Main Stage Music near the courthouse, said it sounded like a "cool website." Dayton has a "comfortable" downtown, he said, and if the money spent attracts more customers and businesses, he's "all for it."

Bob Hilburn, a partner with Franklin, Tenn.-based Shopmainstreets.com, said the virtual tours were test-marketed with the cities of Franklin and Gallatin, Tenn., in May 2010.

Since its launch nine months ago, Hilburn said, the site's volume and customer outreach has grown more than 38 percent in most of the "viable" districts in the state. He attributed that, in part, to the social networking accessibility for each city.

"One merchant can help support another," Hilburn said.

In spring 2011, MainStreet Dayton will begin the first phase of the $100,000 Private Realm Improvement Grant program to revitalize exterior facades for nine selected downtown businesses. The organization also will host its second annual Mardi Gras on April 9 from 3 to 8 p.m.

Kimberly McMillian is based in Rhea County. Contact her at kdj424@ bellsouth.net.

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