Connecticut Main Street Center


Vol.13, Issue 3

Inspiring great Connecticut downtowns, Main Street by Main Street.

Downtown Update

Newsletter of the Connecticut Main Street Center

Great Turnout and Thoughtful Conversation at CMSC/YES Forums


Nearly ninety people showed up to the two forums on Fostering Communities that Attract Young People hosted by CMSC and Young Energetic Solutions (YES). The events were an opportunity for young people who want to have a hand in creating their communities to speak directly with the urban planners, downtown professionals and town staff that manage them. A variety of topics were discussed, including housing, transportation, business and community involvement, and social and retail opportunities. The first forum, held in early February at

The Grove in New Haven, focused on a desire for a community where one could be involved. Both expressed strong interest in additional  public transportation and alternatives to driving.


Jason Vincent engages the audience during the first forum at The Lyceum.


What was most encouraging, however, was the audience's enthusiasm to participate, an audience which varied greatly in terms of age and occupation. Across the board there was a willingness to listen, to speak up, and to collaborate as common ground was found and new ideas sparked. Many people expressed an interest in continuing the conversation beyond these specific events. Much of the credit for this energetic exchange is owed to moderator Jason Vincent, Vice President of Norwich Community Development Corporation. Jason was simply terrific, guiding the discussion while making sure everyone had the chance to speak. The forums certainly would not have been nearly as successful without his deft, engaging approach.


At the outset, one of the main goals of the forums was to come up with practical ways for residents and citizens to get involved in their local community, and for town staff and downtown professionals to engage them. A list of 50 small steps to create change was compiled based on audience feedback. This and additional information from the forum, including notes on the discussion, handout materials and related news and articles can all be found on CMSC's website.


EDITOR'S NOTE: CMSC would like to thank The Lyceum and the Partnership for Strong Communities in Hartford and The Grove and Annie Testa in New Haven for hosting us. As it turns out, John Dankosky from NPR's Where We Live did a live show from The Grove, a co-working space, the day after our forum. The owners of The Grove recently cut the virtual ribbon for The Grid, which connects high potential companies and entrepreneurs in the New Haven area with resources. The Grove is one of four "hubs of innovation" commissioned as part of the state's "Innovation Ecosystem" program. We would also like to thank our workshop sponsors, Webster Bank and the New Alliance Foundation. 



CMSC reached an exciting milestone at the close of last year with over $1 billion invested in our designated downtowns since the program's inception in 1995. CMSC currently has five Designated Members, although there have been additional designated programs over the years. Designated Members have a professionally managed downtown, including a board of directors and chief executive officer, and often additional staff. These organizations must adhere to national standards before receiving Designated Main Street status. Overall growth in CSMC's current designated communities has also been impressive. Since 2007, the number of net new businesses in these communities increased by 21%, while the number of net new jobs increased by 29%. 

Maximizing Social Media


Downtown revitalization specialists DANTH, Inc. recently came out with a two-part blog on maximizing social media. They noted that small businesses can benefit from using social media such as Facebook and Twitter, but very often they fail to take in account both the cost (including whether the return will be worth it) and the amount of time required to maintain the activity. They recommend determining clear goals at the outset, then choosing which social media will best meet those needs that the business can maintain and afford. To read the full articles, click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2. 

Spotlight on 2012 CMSC Award Winner - Main Street Pioneer: Business Owner Lifetime Achievement Award

David Wollner, Owner - Willimantic Brewing Company 


David Wollner has owned the Willimantic Brewing Company, an award-winning brew pub, since its inception in 1991. The business began as a small deli in Willimantic's historic Capitol Theatre and in 1997 made its final move to 967 Main Street, the former Post Office building which had remained empty for 30 years.


Mr. Wollner purchased the building in 2009, becoming the fully committed property and business owner that every Main Street needs to thrive. Many of the original Post Office details remain, including the terrazzo floors in what is now the Pub; the original wood trim; the former P.O. boxes. The Post Master's Office is preserved and used as the Brewing Company's Private Dining Room, which routinely hosts community fundraising events and meetings. 



David Wollner, Owner - Willimantic Brewing Company
David Wollner invests time, care and commitment in his community as well as his business.

In 2011, Mr. Wollner invested in "greening" the old post office. Eight solar panels were installed to accommodate hot water consumption at the restaurant; energy efficient doors were installed; and the restaurant's cooking oil is converted to biodiesel that helps fuel cars and heat homes. Mr. Wollner donates spent grain to a business in Portland, CT which turns them into dog treats, to a local organic farm for compost, as well as using them to make the restaurant's homemade breads. The epitome of Urban Gardening, Wollner's hops are trained up the building and then harvested to brew the beer.



In 2011, Willimantic Brewing Company's very popular patio received an upgrade and expansion. The patio is a favorite destination for outdoor dining in Willimantic, which brings the restaurant's vitality into public view, and creates a fun atmosphere for Main Street.


The Willimantic Brewing Company is now the anchor business on Main Street. Its success is evident in the nightly standing-room only crowds. The demographics of the crowd changes over the 14 hours the Pub is open each day - from the business crowd at lunch and workers stopping by with friends on their way home, to a full dinner crowd with families and early evening meetings, and finally ending with a younger crowd from the local colleges.


Mr. Wollner has consistently hired a talented and loyal staff. Many of the current employees have been with him since the mid-1990s. David engages his employees in running the restaurant and incorporating their ideas. He shows his appreciation by providing health insurance - a rarity in the restaurant field.


Mr. Wollner is also one of the founders of the CT Beer Trail. His award-winning beers are nationally recognized and his business attracts tourists visiting the East Coast from all over the world. Recent awards include Nightclub and Bar's Best Beer Bar in America 2010, and the 2001 6th Best Brew Pub in the World by


The Willimantic Brewing Company routinely supports local organizations in a variety of ways. The company annually supports the Windham Area Interfaith Ministry's Adopt-a-Family Program. In 2011, Mr. Wollner created a beer and gave a portion of the proceeds to the Ministry's Energy Assistance Program. He has donated a keg of beer to every one of Willimantic's 3rd Thursday Street Fests since 2002. He annually brews the Victorian Neighbor Ale, a fundraiser for the Victorian Neighborhood Association and the Fire Engine Red, as well as hosting an evening to support the Fire Fighters Cancer Foundation.


David Wollner is a proud supporter of local businesses, dedicating his time, energy and materials as a resource and mentor for new downtown business owners. That's why CMSC was so pleased to present the award for Main Street Pioneer-Business Owner Lifetime Achievement Award to David Wollner. 




Photos from the 2012 Awards Gala have been posted to our Facebook page. We invite you to view the camaraderie and communal inspiration that was evident in the many smiling, proud faces of the awards winners and their supporters. Learn more about the winning initiatives and individuals here.    

Re-Mains of the Day 


▪ Willimantic launched a new newsletter, Downtown Beat, which is issued by Thread City Development, Inc. The newsletter showcases things to do and places to eat in downtown Willimantic, as well as shopping and local events. The first issue also includes a promotional video, highlighting Willimantic's merchants.


▪ The Corridor Advisory Committee held its inaugural meeting in February. Forty-four municipal officials from towns with transit stations for the New Haven/Hartford/Springfield Rail Corridor and CTfastrak were convened for the first time by CMSC, Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC)Capitol Region Council of Government (CRCOG) and the South Central Regional Council of Governments at the request of CT Dept. of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker. The group met to discuss mixed use development surrounding the stations (also known as Transit Oriented Development or TOD) and agreed to continue the dialogue as a group. You can view ConnDOT's presentation from this meeting on their website.


This newsletter is meant to be a vehicle to communicate with our member communities, industry colleagues and generous supporters.  If you have information about events happening in your downtown, captivating pictures of your Main Street or news regarding your organization that you would like to share in our monthly newsletter, please let us know.

President's Message 

Main Street as a Bridge


Main Street may have a road as its physical location, but its purpose is often to act as more of a bridge, connecting people and ideas to the downtown. CMSC works to facilitate this dynamic interaction, encouraging our members to link with residents and visitors. Here are some of the many great examples of our downtown organizations connecting with various groups to create vibrant communities:


  • Young people interested in being part of a grassroots involvement, wanting to get involved but needing direction to effectuate change were able to speak directly with urban planners and town officials and staff at our recent forums in partnership with YES in Hartford and New Haven.
  • Shop keepers, municipal staff and citizens in the Litchfield Hills area are organizing themselves into a regional movement through the Northwest CT Regional Planning Collaborative. They realize each of their individual towns will be stronger if they work together as a group. By sheer will and strength of their dedication, they are setting the bar for regionalization.
  • Member communities such as Waterbury, Willimantic and Manchester are bringing residents to live downtown through the adaptive re-use of buildings, including old textile factories and mill buildings.
  • Groups like Mansfield Tomorrow, the Simsbury Main Street Partnership, Bristol Rising and Higganum Vision Group are convening citizens to help in planning the future growth of their towns. Through traditional means like charrettes and new technology like Mind Mixer and crowdsourcing, these organizations are seeking out resident input as they plan, rather than just asking residents to react.

There is a wonderful momentum taking hold as citizens demand a more active role in creating their community and towns willingly incorporate that feedback into their planning. We support and encourage that dialogue, facilitating those interactions wherever we can as we continue to bridge the gap between the people who live, work and shop on Main Street and those who manage it.

Connecticut Main Street Center

c/o CL&P

PO Box 270 

Hartford, CT 06141



In This Issue
Great Turnout and Thoughtful Conversation at CMSC/YES Forums



Maximizing Social Media

Spotlight on 2012 CMSC Award Winner - Business Owner Lifetime Achievement Award to David Wollner, Willimantic Brewing Company



Re-Mains of the Day -Willimantic Launches Downtown Beat; Corridor Advisory Committee Convenes Station Towns



President's Message


Upcoming Events


CTfastrak Open Houses

Public invited to comment on CTfastrak service plan

Hartford (2 Times & Locations) 

March 19

More Info


IForum: Mixing Uses, Income, Vitality: Case Studies from Neighboring States

The Lyceum

March 22

More Info


CMSC Offices Closed for Good Friday

March 29


National Main Streets Conference

New Orleans

April 14-16

More Info


2013 CMSC Awards Gala

June 10

Like us on Facebook!

David Wollner accepting lifetime achievement award
David Wollner Accepts his Business Owner Lifetime Achievement Award from John Simone, CMSC President & CEO.
See pictures of Dave's Willimantic Brewing Company and other award winners
on Facebook!


CMSC staff 2013
The CMSC Staff
CMSC in the News
CMSC is making the news for its expertise in downtown revitalization and management.  The Hartford Courant recently published a Letter to the Editor penned by President & CEO John Simone, while Associate Director Kim Parsons-Whitaker made the news for her presentation to the City of Groton.  Meanwhile Community Engagement Director Susan Westa and Communications & Office Manager Christine Schilke both authored entries for the Partnership for Strong Communities' Blog.