Volunteer wait staff at Nick's on Friday raising Main Street fund

Bryn Keplinger, Teresa Plasterer and Rose Wall (standing from left) serve lunch to Heather Leidig and Emma Forrester Friday, Oct. 23, at Nick’s Kitchen. Keplinger, Plasterer and Wall will be volunteer servers during an Oct. 30 fund-raising dinner.
Bryn Keplinger, Teresa Plasterer and Rose Wall (standing from left) serve lunch to Heather Leidig and Emma Forrester Friday, Oct. 23, at Nick’s Kitchen. Keplinger, Plasterer and Wall will be volunteer servers during an Oct. 30 fund-raising dinner. Photo by Cindy Klepper.

A group of community volunteers who want to see downtown Huntington grow and prosper will be serving dinner at Nick's Kitchen on Friday, Oct. 30, to raise seed money for the launch of a Main Street Huntington program.

Those dining at Nick's from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. will be served by a volunteer wait staff consisting of Bryn Keplinger, Rose Wall, Teresa Plasterer, Rich Najuch, Erin Brown and Natalie Carnes. They'll be working for tips, and all tips they receive will go directly into the Main Street Huntington kitty. It's the first step toward raising the $1,000 they need to receive a $1,000 matching grant offered by the Lime City Economic Development Corporation.

"It's going to be a long road," Wall says.

But the road to reach this point has already been long.
The local volunteers have worked more than two years to be accepted into the Indiana Main Street program, an initiative administered by the state's Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) with a goal of encouraging the "economic development, redevelopment and improvement of the downtown areas of Indiana cities and towns."

"The initial goal was to get everyone on board," Wall says.

That's been accomplished, she says, with support received from city and county governments, all area economic development groups, the Huntington County Chamber of Commerce and the Huntington County Visitor and Convention Bureau.

The local group's official certification by the state agency is scheduled for Nov. 13 in Indianapolis.

Najuch and Plasterer operate downtown businesses, and Wall's business is near downtown. But they say that giving a spark to the downtown area will benefit not just downtown businesses, but also the entire community.

"If a new industry is looking at your community, it looks at the whole community," Wall says. A vibrant downtown is part of what makes a community attractive to new development, she adds.

"People think our downtown is dead," Wall says "I totally disagree with that. It's struggling, like every other downtown in America."

Main Street Huntington will provide the tools to jump-start downtown revitalization through economic development and facade and infrastructure improvements, she says.

The local organization may provide matching grants to downtown property owners who want to make improvements to their buildings in accordance with Main Street Huntington's design standards, Wall says.

A community group, to be made up of local residents and business owners, will be designated to formulate those design standards, she says.

"We don't want it to be any kind of rules and regulations, but we want to maintain the district's character," Wall explains.

The local group will also serve as a liaison between downtown businesses and state agencies that offer grants and other assistance for revitalization efforts, she says.

In addition to grants, Indiana Main Street also offers a database that can match empty historic buildings with people looking to buy as well as workshops and training sessions.