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Growth Highlights Downtown Brentwood Becomes Destination

by CC News
Downtown Brentwood

Brentwood has officially become a destination according to the Downtown Brentwood Coalition who presented to the Brentwood City Council Tuesday.

Amy Tilley, Executive Director of the Downtown Brentwood Coalition (DBC), provided an overview of 2-years’ worth of work—including a 26-page impact report.  She also said the organization grew from 30 members to 80 members.

The DBC is currently a coalition of over 80 small businesses and non-profit partners within the Downtown Brentwood area and launched 15-years ago while in 2008 formed the non-profit Downtown Brentwood Coalition. In 2021, the Coalition hired Tilley as its first executive director with support of the City of Brentwood, which included a Memorandum of Understanding to help fund the position for three-years.

“It’s a Main Street America program and there are four core pillars that Main Street has a tried-and-true method which is focusing on economic vitality, organization, promotion and design,” stated Tilley. “For us, we have a subset of these types of things that are important to us such as marketing and promotion, community engagement, economic vitality, special events. Being champions for our community and making downtown the most welcoming and vibrant place we can.”

The first year of the program, they addressed all the challenges and focused on team building, strategic planning, rebranding and reconnecting—it set them up for year 2 in an effort to get people coming back to downtown and reacquainted to coming downtown and businesses working together.

“Year 2, we were looking for community transformation and revitalization to happen,” stated Tilley. “In 2023, we focused on collaboration, promotion, economic vitality, placemaking and community building.”

With the growth, they were able to incorporate small businesses into the events while finding ways to partner both business and non-profit organizations for success.

“My model for us is we are not the star of the show, the members are the star of the show. We are here to uplift them and put them on this pedestal and speak about what they are doing and we do that through our social media,” explained Tilley.

The social media efforts saw a 401.4% increase in visits while Instagram grow from just under 4,000 followers to over 10k in less than 3-years.  The website traffic also increased from 8,000 visits per year to 67,000 visits.

“What happened there was a magic combo which turned into seeing an actual economic boost for these businesses and downtown as a whole,” explained Tilley who noted they had active, enthusiastic and willing participants who were all excited. “You can’t fake that or make it up. It happened.”

The DBC says it organizes 8-10 events a year and not all of them are big like Oktoberfest with street closures, but many are retail nights out supporting the small businesses—an exploratory event with 30 businesses and participants get a scavenger hunt type cart with discounts, giveaways or prizes. The goal is to bring people downtown.

“It is an experience and people just love those. We want to continue those types of things because the business feedback have seen real-time increases to their bottom line, even with the smaller events,” explained Tilley.

As far as events go, they estimate to bring 30,000 to 40,000 event related visits to the downtown area per year through their events.

Tilley also provided the following data:

  • Sponsorship from 2019 to 2023 jumped from $5k to $68k
  • Grants awarded 2022-2023 = $83k
  • Members supported jumped from 36 in 2019 to 85+ in 2023
  • Over 3,770 volunteer hours in 2023
  • Vacancy in 2023 – zero in the Downtown core
  • MOU funding is just $70k per year

“We went pretty aggressive in the last two years, but we really couldn’t stop because of momentum” stated Tilley. “We know we can find more sponsorship and increase our membership.”

She further highlighted the MOU exists which they look at it as a checklist and ensure they check off the items and good stewards of the funding and money raised and invest it back into the programs they are doing. Looking ahead, they are working to turn the Brentwood Woman’s Club building into their first office space.

“We are going to invest a lot of money back into it and become ADA compliant, share what the historical society is doing, Harvest Time, the Winegrowers or any great place of learning are all doing,” stated Tilley.

The MOU expires in June and hope the DBC can come back in the Spring and hash out how the work will not die but rather continue and not loose any momentum.

During public comments, several members of the DBC spoke in support of Tilley and encouraged the council to extend the MOU when it expires calling her “indispensable” and a “crucial piece of the puzzle” for small business owners to be successful.

Vicky Little, of Sip and Scoop California, called Tilley more than just an executive director but the heartbeat of the community and small business likes hers which the role is more than titles and responsibilities but its the impact she provides.

“As a member of the DBC, I’ve experienced firsthand the incredible impact and positive impacts resulting from the diligent effort of the coalition. The DBC under Amy has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to elevating our downtown area… Amy’s leadership, dedication and tireless efforts have been pivotal in steering the coalition to its current position of influence and effectiveness.”

Vivian Treff, of Boondoggies, highlighted how Tilley helped take the DBC to another level by growing social media, increasing reach across all platforms, introduced new technology, improved DBC systems and created manuals for everything they do. She also developed a plan to gather sponsorships.

“I can’t imagine what DBC would be like without her,” stated Treff. “I’d like to thank the city for approving the MOU and ask the city work with the DBC to keep this executive director around no matter what it takes. The impact she has had on the downtown, and the city of Brentwood sales tax, is undeniable.”

Nina Koch, of the East County Performing Arts Center, thanked the DBC and Tilley for their dedication to foster a thriving business environment in Brentwood adding, “I’ve personally witnessed the incredible support and positive impact her efforts have made on our local businesses. I am also not in the downtown core, but I have felt the support and my business has been positively impacted by the work of the DBC.”

Lyn Tei said they have been DBC members since opening the doors to Zephyr Grill and Bar since 2016. She said the impact of Tilley has been pivotal to her business and driving more people downtown.

“I am grateful to the city of Brentwood for the MOU that allowed the DBC to hire Amy Tilley as the executive director,” said Tei who added the group is run by dedicated business owners volunteering countless hours. “As the DBC expanded along with Downtown Brentwood, the role of executive director became critical to the future of the DBC and the entire downtown area. I fully support Amy’s executive director position and is an invaluable asset to not only my business, but to all businesses in the downtown area.”

Tei also noted the Santa Crawl event in December alone, saw a $4,600 increase from sales on the same day last year. She encouraged the city to approve another MOU.

Randi Moser, of Alluv Place, called Tilley “invaluable to my business” and was a game changer to my business. She is always looking for innovative ideas that will help everybody and include everybody.

“I guarantee you she puts in way more hours than what she is actually paid for,” stated Moser. “She does it all with a smile and extremely positive.”

Dee Olmedo, of Soiree Love, shared the DBC and Amy Tilley have always been supportive of her business and given her the foundation to establish her business.

“With the support of the MOU and DBC I was able to open my storefront last year and it has flourished since with support. Initiatives such as events, promotional posts and the DBC online presence, it has helped my business grow,” stated Olmedo who called the MOU being important to the growth of the downtown community.

Downtown Brentwood Coalition

Council Discussion

Councilmember Pa’Tanisha Pierson said Brentwood has seen the fruits of the labor of the DBC and were lucky to have a relationship with Amy Tilley.

“From what I see, the feeling that has come and emanated from the Board Members and Amy who does this with style and grace, to me, if I could name one person you emulate while I am giving you your roses its Michelle Obama,” stated Pierson. “You are always so graceful and always so kind. That you maintain the hometown feeling that caused this little woman from Oakland to sell her house and move to Brentwood so my kids could have that downtown feeling.”

Vice Mayor Susannah Meyer said if you walk the downtown now, there was a different energy compared to years ago.

“I feel like when people walk though downtown, I think there is more of a sense of community than what I have seen in the past,” stated Meyer. “There is definitely a welcoming feel and the small businesses that I have interacted with, they are happy to be there and feel supported. Its great to see the actual data points of what we approved in 2021… to see the actual results it makes me even happier we did what we did years ago.”

Councilmember Jovita Mendoza highlighted she went downtown last week and couldn’t get into a restaurant and another had a 2-hour wait. She said the energy downtown now is because of all those down there.

“That is the sign. I was not mad, I am happy you are all so busy you can’t even seat me,” stated Mendoza. “I think it’s fantastic… I’ve never seen downtown like it is now.”

Councilmember Tony Oerlemans said he has lived in Brentwood for 20-years and has never seen the downtown as vibrant is it is now.

“It’s a blast to go downtown and we can attribute a lot of that to you (Amy Tilley),” stated Oerlemans.  “I truly appreciate everything you do and please keep doing what your doing and keep Brentwood as strong as it is.”

Mayor Joel Bryant said what downtown Brentwood has become is not only a destination, but the identity we want for people bringing businesses and families into Brentwood.

“I want them downtown. I want them to feel and see, you are the proof we are a family community and focused on one another,” stated Bryant who noted people are not investing financially, but are investing life into this. “The fact that the DBC is a gateway to all of our agricultural community, all of our entertainment, all of are arts, and anything that you like or are interested in, you can go to some event and you will find it is put on by generous people who are very kind and caring.”

Bryant added that while there has be much improvement and how great things were today, he wanted to see just how great the city could help make it and that he appreciates the partnership.

“It’s great to have a city the size that we have and have the level of excellence in business owners, community and downtown we have. It is almost unheard of,” said Bryant.

The MOU is expected to come before the Brentwood in the spring time for discussion.

To view the Downtown Brentwood Coalition Impact Report – click here

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