By: Phil Decologero, January, 2010
Truly North Andover’s finest…. Formed to advocate on behalf of the business community of North Andover, the North Andover Merchants Association (N.A.M.A.) is wasting no time tackling its mission.
“I really can’t remember the last time I went a day without doing something N.A.M.A. related,” said Lesley Carlson, owner of Rolf’s Pub on Main Street, and Vice President of N.A.M.A.
After only six months of operation, and a lengthy list of accomplishments under its belt, it is no surprise Carlson feels this way.
Since organizing in July, N.A.M.A. has worked to aggressively amp up its business-building and community-outreach activities. These activities include joint-advertising ventures, networking nights, business-building workshops and business-profiling on one of North Andover’s TV stations.
“It’s really quite impressive when you consider that N.A.M.A. is completely volunteer-based,” said Dick Vaillancourt, owner of PC Pros.
In October N.A.M.A. sponsored its first joint advertisement in a local newspaper by announcing the formation of the association, while listing each of the founding-member businesses. N.A.M.A. used the ad as an opportunity to get its memberships’ names out there.
“We treated it as a chance to get our feet wet,” said Tracey Zysk, owner of Wiggles & Jiggles Pet Care. “I had never really advertised in print media before, and I was really surprised at the amount of positive feedback I received. The customers I picked up just from that single advertisement make membership in N.A.M.A. worth it.”
In mid-October the group hosted a Networking Night, inviting all of the town’s business owners. “The Networking Night served the dual purpose of facilitating relationships between the different business owners in town,” said Carlson, “while also allowing N.A.M.A. to introduce itself to the entire business community.”
Since the initial Networking Night, N.A.M.A. has seen membership, which costs $100 annually, balloon to almost 100 businesses. “The increase in membership continues to drive our momentum,” said Vaillancourt. N.A.M.A. voted to support the town’s efforts to hang Holiday Wreaths on the telephone poles lining Main Street. Hoping to see more wreaths lining the roadway, N.A.M.A. presented the Board of Selectmen with a donation of over $400. Several N.A.M.A. members also spent one Sunday helping assemble the wreaths.
“The wreath itself is sponsored either by residents or businesses,” said Carlson, “but the wreaths require a frame to be hung from. N.A.M.A. made its donation so that more frames could be purchased, which would then allow additional businesses to sponsor the wreaths.”
“Residents get to enjoy the additional decorations, while businesses that sponsor a wreath benefit from the increased exposure. It’s a win-win,” said Vaillancourt. “This was a simple project, but it sums up the mission of N.A.M.A. – business and community improvement.”
This mission was about to be dramatically built upon in November. “For years I have been a business owner in town,” said Bryan Favor, owner of Main Street Hardware. “Every year North Andover has the Santa Parade on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We thought: this year why not ask if N.A.M.A. can get involved?”
Once speaking with the town, N.A.M.A.’s membership sponsored the Pentucket High School Band to march in the parade.
“It was really great of N.A.M.A. to support the parade the way they did,” said Selectman Tracy Watson.
“Everyone seemed really thrilled with the addition of another band,” said Favor, “and while residents enjoyed the band, they also couldn’t miss the large banner that included the names of sponsoring businesses – as well as the additional banners some businesses had following the band.”
With so many hands ready to help, N.A.M.A. has been able to offer a number of different services to members.
In November N.A.M.A. hosted an Advertising Workshop for its members. The workshop included presentations from Spectrum Marketing, with specific regard into advertising strategies. The North Andover Citizen attended a December meeting, while the Valley Patriot will be speaking with members in January.
“Really, this provided me an opportunity to explore a business strategy that I had never really looked into,” said Zysk.
N.A.M.A. arranged with one of the papers for members to participate in a full-page advertisement that would be running for the three weeks preceding Christmas.
In addition to the print media, N.A.M.A. has also developed a relationship with North Andover Camera. By joining NA CAM, N.A.M.A. can utilize their equipment to tape and profile businesses throughout town.
“We spent days learning how to use the equipment to tape and edit material.” said Carlson. “We then signed out a camera and immediately went about taping several businesses in town.”
The show would be “Local Shop Talk”, and N.A.M.A. would interview members, discussing the basics of their business, while also shooting footage of their stores. Following editing, the final clip would be 8-10 minutes long, and run on North Andover’s Community Access Channel (Channel 22 for Comcast).
“We considered the time of year and chose to profile three local gift shops.” said Carlson. “We edited those clips and turned it into a single episode.”
In addition to a Gift Shop themed episode, N.A.M.A. also taped McLay’s Florist and the Roche Farm Stand – both of which were combined into a second episode.
“Shop Talk”, like many of N.A.M.A.’s efforts, look to be a re-occurring part of the group as the New Year begins.
“We just finished having our December Networking Night at Chickering Plaza, we are continuously updating our website, www.NorthAndoverMerchants.org, and planning ‘Shop Talk’,” said Vaillancourt. “We have our next workshop planned for January 20, and we are constantly discussing new activities to benefit members. I am really surprised at how much we have successfully taken on.”
As 2010 begins, there is little doubt that N.A.M.A. will continue to do their hard work.
Interested in learning more about N.A.M.A.? Please visit www.NorthAndoverMerchants.org or email NorthAndoverMerchants@gmail.com. Meetings are also held at 7 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month. Meetings are held in the North Andover Senior Center, and all are welcome to attend.