The DTCA: What it does, who leads it

TRAVERSE CITY – If you've ever wondered who conjures up the 23 or so annual activities that attract after-hours shoppers and curious onlookers to the sidewalks beneath the business district's glowing street lamps, it is the Downtown Traverse City Association.

Nearly 200 downtown retailers and restaurants as well as non-retail businesses-including agencies, attorneys and media outlets-make up the DTCA.

Since the 1960s the all-volunteer organization has been downtown's marketing engine. The business district is abuzz with activities all year but especially during the holidays, when shopping events such as Ladies' Night, Midnight Madness and Men's Night follow one another like Santa's reindeer.

DTCA non-retail events, including Santa's visit, Friday Night Live and a biannual Art Walk, are also major attractions.

"The Walk brings hundreds of people downtown," said Colleen Paveglio, who oversees marketing for the DTCA and the Downtown Development Authority (DDA).

What started as a promotion for downtown has, in its third year, become an anticipated event, said DTCA Vice President Todd McMillen. To promote the "public" aspect of the Art Walk, visitors are invited to paint on big canvases. Their handiwork is currently displayed on the side of McMillen's Instant Framer in the 300 block of Front Street.

"It makes downtown even more visually pleasing," he said.

Other DTCA efforts include the organization's sales tools (brochures/ web site/quarterly newspaper article), member communications (newsletters/ broadsheets), and special promotions to get people into stores (downtown employee discount cards/customer gift certificates).

The board

Dues-paying members and associate members elect a nine-person board, including four appointed officers, to three-year terms. There are no term limits. Monthly board meetings are held the first Thursday of the month in the DDA office in the Hardy Parking Deck.

The current board of 10 (two nominees were tied for votes) includes President Leisa Eckerle Hankins (My Favorite Things), Vice President Todd McMillen (McMillen's Instant Framer), Secretary Jim Valesano (Lighting Center), Treasurer Brian Kluzak (Northwestern Bank), Sarah Jane Bye (By Candlelight Amish Furnishings), Amy Parker (Park Place Hotel), Stacy Sheren-Columbo (Holiday Traditions), Michele Joubran (Captain's Quarters), Bob Derrer (Allure Salon) and Dave Leonhard (Orvis Streamside).

Paveglio said retail members pay fees based on a percentage of their sales, with non-retail or associate members paying a flat fee. McMillen added that fees are adjusted according to the merchant's location downtown. Higher dues for those in the 100-200 blocks correspond to increased activities in those areas.

In 1990, the DTCA contracted with the DDA for administrative support, including the use of the DDA offices, machines and its four-person staff. A portion of DTCA dues covers some of the administrative costs.

"We wouldn't be able to do nearly as much as we do without the DDA," McMillen said. "Santa's arrival would be flat without good marketing."

When asked about the DTCA's mission for 2008, Paveglio said, "We want to create more excitement during the holidays and more consistent hours downtown-and longer hours, with the Opera House, State Theatre and Red Ginger. We foresee things changing in the next year and that's one of our goals, to work on that." BN