The City of Manning recently gleaned insight into residents’ opinions on what businesses are missing and the services they hope to see on Main Street in the future.
The Historic Preservation Commission and Main Street Manning conducted a public input survey for residents to identify potential business opportunities for an unused property at 503 Main St., currently owned by Bob’s Construction.
The survey also asked the broader question of what businesses are missing from Manning, as the 503 Main St. building is not Manning’s only vacant storefront.
“Part of what we wanted to find out is ‘What does the community want to see in our business mix?’ to help fill some of these empty properties,” Manning City Administrator Dawn Meyer said.
The 2021 Manning business gap survey reported 100 percent of respondents purchase their clothing/shoes outside of Manning, while 86 percent drive out of town for restaurants.
Of the respondents who shop for clothes and shoes outside of Manning, 78 percent of shopping is done online, and 22 percent drive out of town.
When asked if Manning should have clothes or shoe stores, 29.63 percent of respondents said they would definitely frequent one, while 66.67 percent said they probably would and 3.70 percent said they probably wouldn’t. Among the top suggestions were consignment stores and pop-up shops and events.
When residents do have the opportunity to shop in Manning, the survey found participants prefer local shopping because it saves time and the money stays in Manning.
Still, 25 percent of respondents drive out of town or shop online for the following:
— Clothing and shoes
— Kids’ and baby items
— Food, specialty food, and drink
— Sporting goods and clothes
Based on responses of “what is missing” and the current available spaces, participants communicated what business they would frequent if they were in Manning. Participants determined eight common categories, including:
— Specialty shopping
— Kids’ stores
— Entertainment and social events
— Clothes and shoe stores
— Storage space
— Consignment and secondhand items
Meyer said certain businesses like retail and restaurants always come up on market surveys, but she was surprised by the number of votes for services such as a laundromat and meat locker.
Restaurants had the highest percentage of participants reporting they would definitely visit, at 93.75 percent; 0 respondents said they wouldn’t frequent a restaurant. Of those who answered yes, steakhouse, Mexican and Chinese restaurants were the top three features.
The survey also found that 61.9 percent of respondents reported they would “probably not” frequent storage spaces. Among storage spaces, the top features were climate controlled, Uhaul-boxes and large indoor storage.
Both entertainment and the category “other” had the second-highest percentages after restaurants; 79.17 percent of respondents reported they would frequent businesses under the “other” category. The top feature among the other categories was a meat locker, UPS drop-off, computer repairs and laundromat.
The survey found 74.07 percent reported they would frequently use businesses under entertainment/social events. The top features include outdoor music, outdoor patio and indoor state for music, plays and lectures.
Meyer said it is essential that recruitment and expansion efforts for businesses on Main Street are not led by only one group.
“A lot of times, it is just a private citizen who knows somebody who knows somebody, and that is how we get business leads,” Meyer said. “So it is kind of two-fold. It is one, getting the information, but it is also equally important to get the information out there.”
As a Main Street community, Manning has participated in multiple marketing exercises through the years.
“We have really been able to take that data rather than just recruiting what one person or five people think,” Meyer said. “It is important to us to look a little more community-wide. I think that also helps spark conversations.”