Window shoppers take a peek at the offerings inside of Joy Street Life & Home during the West Concord Holiday Stroll. Photo by Jennifer Lord Paluzzi

Economic vitality committee pivots after Covid

By Betsy Levinson
July 14, 2023

Formed in late 2019, the town’s Economic Vitality Committee’s original focus was retail sustainability and tourism, according to the official charge. It was designed to boost the vitality of the four retail districts in Concord Center and West Concord, and connect tourists to the shops and restaurants in those districts.

But a few months into 2020, COVID-19 hit, the town virtually shut down, and the committee pivoted to supporting the businesses through the pandemic, according to committee Chair Jennifer Schunemann.

Now, three years on, it’s back to the future for the committee as it redirects its efforts and looks for new members.

“We are poised to enter a new chapter,” said Schunemann.

As the committee searches for two or three new members, Schunemann said people with skills or interests in town history, restaurants and marketing communications would be the best fit.

She said anyone interested in learning more about the committee’s work is invited to its August 16 meeting at the Town House at 8:30 a.m.

Mimi Graney is integral to the economic vitality of the town. She is a full time staffer who works in the Town Manager’s suite of offices. She sees herself as an ambassador, touting the advantages of Concord to potential commercial business owners and restaurateurs alike. 

“We are returning to our original purpose,” said Graney, after the Covid diversion. She said there is “more we could do” to support businesses. She wants to attract new restaurants, lodging and transportation to “optimize the commercial base and alleviate the tax burden” on property taxes.

Another challenge is preparing the town for the 250th anniversary of the Concord battle and the expected influx of tourists, Schunemann said.

Graney sees herself as a matchmaker, of sorts, building relationships with commercial property owners and potential tenants, and helping to “overcome obstacles” with the permitting process.

Graney is “talking to a potential tenant” for the Chang An site, and said the Papa Razzi building will be demolished and its future use is still unplanned. 

She is glad Town Meeting passed articles allowing “small footprint” restaurants which “add diversity to what we can provide” to tourists and residents, and a path to permitting mobile food trucks so that restaurants can branch out and serve customers who want a snack or meal on-the-go.

Other groups work with Graney and Schunemann contributing to the mix of shops and restaurants that cater to tourists and townspeople: the Concord Business Partnership, the Chamber of Commerce, the Community Chest and others.