ARLINGTON — Arlington businesswoman Suzi Quillen was researching small-business marketing ideas last summer when she stumbled across a reality show on Hulu called, “Small Business Revolution — Main Street.”
The owner of a yarn and vintage housewares store downtown, Perfectly Knotty, was so enthralled with the show that gives small-town businesses a makeover she binge-watched it.
So when she saw the show was casting for a town to have a starring role on Season 4 — featuring home improvement guru Ty Pennington and co-host Amanda Brinkman — she submitted an application nominating Arlington.
Quillen knitted quite a yarn with those first steps. From the 12,000 towns that applied across the country, Arlington moved into the Top 20 in November, then made such an impression that it vaulted into the Top 10 last month.
That showing earned a visit to Arlington Thursday and Friday by a team from show sponsor and marketing firm Deluxe Corp., a stop on their 10-city tour to visit the communities, and chat with local business people and residents about why their hometown deserves to be the winning one.
“You’ve been doing a really great job telling us about why you love Arlington,” Brinkman said at a reception at The Mirkwood Public House Jan. 3 attended by over 100 people. “Keep telling us what makes this place special. It’s so fun to hear not only what you love about Arlington, but about the small businesses that you have here downtown.”
To keep the business buzz going, people are encouraged to keep sharing #MyArlington posts and tagging @thesmallbusinessrevolution across their social media to highlight what makes Arlington and its businesses special.
The Deluxe team canvassed downtown Jan. 4, dropping by shops along Olympic Avenue including Perfectly Knotty, Reclaimed Heart, Moe’s Espresso and Country Rose. They shot footage and gained a better feel about the community.
The other finalists are Camas, Washington; Biddeford, Maine; Canon City, Colorado; Corsicana, Texas; Durant, Oklahoma; Marinette, Wisconsin/Menominee, Michigan; Pageland, South Carolina; Searcy, Arkansas; and Washington, North Carolina.
Judges in mid-February will narrow the field to five. The winning town will be selected by the public during a weeklong vote, so Arlington residents will need to be ready to cast their votes. Filming begins in March.
Arlington’s small-screen debut on the web-based reality show would also deliver a $500,000 main street makeover, with dollars split among a handful of participating local businesses selected by the show.
Just for being one of the 10, Arlington will benefit when Deluxe returns to town May 1 to host a free marketing seminar. Their experts will share advice on creating a business plan, maximizing market dollars and developing a sustainable business. Space is limited. Register at deluxe.com/myarlington.
Deluxe’s Small Business Revolution program started in 2015 when the company looked to celebrate its 100th anniversary in a way that went beyond focusing on themselves and their legacy, Brinkman said. They wanted to create a movement. “We wanted to do something that honored the kinds of businesses that we have loved working with all these years,” she said.
The winning town and its small businesses receive the grant money and are featured in the eight-part series to air next fall. The show hires local contractors for revitalization projects and brings expert business and marketing mentorship.
Business people and residents who attended the reception said they are excited at the prospect of seeing Arlington land a big role.
“Arlington really is an amazing town,” said Quillen, wearing a shirt with the tagline #MyArlington. She added that the residents are great at supporting local businesses. “We deserve this. Arlington has so much to offer.”
Her best friend, Colleen Vollans, added: “We’re in it to win it. We want this.”
Karen Feliciano, born and raised in Hawi on the northern reaches of Hawaii’s Big Island, moved to Arlington in August.
“I chose to live in Arlington after seven years of visiting because it is so amazing, and I’ve met nothing but wonderful people here,” said Feliciano, who works at The Mirkwood. “I love driving down main street. It’s so gorgeous, and being so close to the mountains — Arlington’s magical.”
She gives Arlington a 100 percent chance of being picked for the show.
Brinkman likes the community’s confidence. “But the secret is, you don’t need the show to continue the momentum that you’ve been up to for the last two months of this process.”
She said the towns that are able to keep the energy and momentum going on the other side of the process are the real winners.
“Really use this moment to support small businesses,” she said. “If we don’t support them, they won’t be around for us to love and patronize.”
This story originally appeared in The Arlington Times, a sibling paper of The Daily Herald.