Many see Truro as the simple Hub Town of Nova Scotia. It is that place you travel by on your way to other destinations. Spotlight on Business sat down with Jenn Mantin, of the Downtown Truro Partnership, to learn more about what this amazing small town has to offer. It does not take long to understand that Truro is a special place and that it offers facilities and businesses usually associated with much larger cities, without comprising on its small-town charm making it the perfect destination for conferences and trade shows or getaway with friends or a planned staycation with the family. Regardless of what you are looking for Truro and the surrounding area truly has something for everyone.
Rich with culture and history, Downtown Truro is a unique small town, located centrally in Nova Scotia. Truro has always been rich with history, culture and community pride. However, in recent years it is making major strides towards being one of the most vibrant and thriving towns in Nova Scotia. When it comes to the business community our downtown offers a unique mix of local businesses – shops, restaurants, cafés and professional services – owned by the people who call Truro home.
Downtown Truro offers the best of both worlds – small town ambience combined with a full range of shops, services and recreational opportunities. With museums, art galleries, a premiere cultural centre, a state of the art new library, civic square and outdoor skating rink, as well as being steps away from the beautiful Victoria Park, it is clear why Downtown Truro appeals to residents and visitors alike. If you haven’t been here before, it’s time to come check out all we have to offer!
The Downtown Truro Partnership (DTP) is the “Business Improvement Association” or organization that represents the downtown business community. The DTP develops and implements economic development, marketing, and promotional initiatives on behalf of the business community. Our goal is to assist in making downtown Truro a beautiful, welcoming, and exciting place to visit, live or do business. The DTP also invests in the community at large, providing or leveraging funds and development for green and public spaces and infrastructure, and providing community engagement opportunities through social and cultural events.
Our organization is comprised of just under 400 businesses, all who fall within a particular geographical downtown boundary called the Urban Regional Core (URC). These businesses pay a self-imposed area rate or tax, in lieu of a membership fee. The organization is led by a volunteer Board of Directors – the volunteers being drawn from the member base – and maintain a small staff including their Executive Director, Office Administration and Events and Promotions coordinator. The DTP has been in operation for over 40 years, and in partnership with the Town of Truro, has been the driving force behind many of the downtown development and promotional initiatives that take place year over year.
Downtown Truro has always been ‘home’ to historically renown businesses such as Stanfield’s Ltd. and MacQuarries Pharmasave. As a transportation hub, Truro is naturally an attractive place to do business, and over the years has drawn many key stakeholders to our downtown core. In recent years, we have seen a huge influx of new diverse businesses; niche boutiques, ethnic restaurants, microbreweries, speciality spas and salons, to name a few. This surge in new business has been welcomed by the residents and the sense of pride in our growing business community is evident in the community’s efforts to support local.
Over the past year, like many other business communities across the country, Downtown Truro has been affected dramatically by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many restaurants, shops and services made the difficult decision to close their doors during the months of March, April, and May of 2020, and still today they are dealing with the daily struggles of limited capacities, enforcing mask wearing, additional cleaning measures, reduced hours, etc. It has been a challenging year, to say the least, but if anything, it has proven how innovative and resilient our downtown business community is. Over the past year we have seen many businesses pivot their business models to accommodate for the current climate. Many retail stores have expanded from their brick-and-mortar locations and now have an additional e-commerce platform and restaurants have created new, trendy outdoor dining areas to allow for additional seating.
As an organization, the Downtown Truro Partnership had to pivot our strategic plan as well. One of our main focuses over the past 5 years had been attracting visitors through events and festivals and for obvious reasons, all plans for the 2020 tourism season had to be cancelled. Instead, we have focused our efforts over the past year on providing business supports such as COVID-19 signage and floor decals, sector-based strategy sessions, a downtown dollar incentive program, sidewalk shopping days and constantly promoting the message of supporting local and staying safe. One of our main initiatives to support business throughout the pandemic was a local delivery program that delivered packages from Downtown Truro Businesses to residents in Colchester County, Pictou County, and East Hants. The program was initially tested when everyone was “staying the blazes home” due to COVID-19 restrictions. Small businesses were hurting, and the Downtown Truro Partnership partnered with the Town of Truro to introduce a free delivery service. You could purchase just about anything from a local shop, over the phone or online, and it would be delivered to your doorstep that same week — for free. The program ran for 13 weeks and was extremely successful, delivering over 1000 packages and resulting in over $50, 000 in local spending.
Leading up to the holidays, it was decided to expand the project with other local partners and offer the program more broadly to all businesses in Colchester county. Once again, we offered free, same week, doorstep delivery from any Colchester small business for 8 weeks leading up to Christmas. The program was able to give local retailers a unique advantage and compete with the online giants like Amazon, except even better! Once again, the program was a hit, and provided spending of over $45,000 in just 8 weeks.
While the pandemic has slightly changed the way we do business in Truro, it certainly hasn’t slowed our growth and momentum. We are still a strong and vibrant town and our businesses are optimistic about the next year to come. This growth is also reflected in new developments, both commercial and residential. The Town of Truro’s building permits, which translates to new construction, is on track to be close to or even exceed 2019’s banner year. “Building permits in 2019 totalled $21.8 million. 2019, 2018 and 2016 were three of the strongest years for private construction projects in the Town of Truro since 2009. Our permit values for 2020 to date, are currently at just over $20.4 million” says Alison Grant, the Manager of Economic Development for the Town of Truro. “In addition to permit values and current construction, we currently have major interest in new multi-residential developments. As of right now, in the Town of Truro, there are over 1,000 new apartment units planned for Truro.”
This type of growth is reflected in the Downtown as well. Our membership base is constantly growing, and new businesses are seeing downtown Truro as the place to be, and existing businesses are expanding. We would like to encourage everyone who can to come visit our beautiful Downtown. Right now, is the perfect time to explore “at home” and we welcome all those across the province to come and see what Downtown Truro has to offer!
by Jenn Mantin