The Downtown Carlisle Association said it has hired a retail recruiter who will target regional and national stores, asking them to consider the Cumberland County borough's business district for a new location.
DCA hired Virginia Mauk, who most recently served as the executive director of the Olney Chamber of Commerce in Olney, Md. Mauk, who started her job Tuesday, lives in Carlisle with her husband, John. Mauk will work Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and the second Friday of each month, DCA said in a statement.
“We’re really excited to have her,” said Glenn White, DCA’s executive director. “We were impressed with her qualifications. She understands business and understands the commercial centers of towns.”
The part-time retail recruiter position at DCA was created after a 2007 study suggested Carlisle should try to augment its existing downtown business with new retailers.
Last year, another study suggested Carlisle should find more regional and national chains to populate its downtown business districts, according to the DCA. That prompted it to refocus the recruiter position on those types of companies.
“We need a more balanced mix,” White said.
Carlisle’s downtown is seeing one of its lowest vacancy rates in many years with all local retailers, he said. But it needs larger chains that are likely to stay open later and encourage others to do the same, as well as give visitors and locals defined products and pricing, he said. Larger brands could increase foot traffic and business to local retailers.
“Some people will say I don’t want any national competitor, but that’s not a good way of looking at it,” White said. “We’re not looking to turn the entire downtown into a giant mall. … the big anchors will bring the foot traffic in. These people will be aware of these other stores and frequent them, too.”
Many retailers within 45 minutes of Carlisle can’t open a second store right now, which is another reason to bring in large retailers to fill holes in the business district, White said.
However, these tasks are not easy. Borough development organizations such as DCA are having a difficult time balancing the need for staff to run programs — such as retail recruiting and revitalization for business and residential districts — with sometimes scarce funding.