Building the borough

Bristol gears up for the final phase of the Small Business Revolution

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

“There is a fine line between our town moving forward and not. We don’t have time for nonsense. We have to build on the positive. We have to build on the energy we have,” said Bill Pezza, president of Bristol’s Raising the Bar.

At a council meeting earlier this month, Pezza announced highlights and several projects of the final phase of the Small Business Revolution transformation. Several months ago, Bristol was named the winner of the Small Business Revolution — Main Street, a program created by Deluxe Corporation, a company that has been a supporter of small businesses since 1915. Bristol won a $500,000 grant to be used toward the rejuvenation and transformation of the borough to give it a fresh spark.

Talk of the town: Deluxe Corporation and Small Business Revolution have been working with Bristol on a $500,000 transformation, the completion of which is set for June. PHOTO: Deluxe Corporation

Bristol’s history dates to 1681, with its ideal location by the Delaware River and between the bustling cities of Philadelphia and New York. According to Pezza, its history runs parallel with the economic timeline of the United States. In the ’60s, the streets were lined with steel mills, but when that era came to an end, it was a scary time for many.

“When the mills closed, the jobs left, and the malls happened to come up at the same time, and this town went into a deep sleep,” he said.

Although Pezza said Bristol will never be what it was, the borough is coming together to take it in a new direction.

“People here have a passionate desire to change this town, and that’s what makes us different than others,” he said.

Deluxe’s team has been working with local leaders and small business owners over the past few months to get the transformation underway, giving Bristol a sense of optimism that hasn’t been seen in years.

This fall on Hulu, Bristol will be featured in an eight-part video series highlighting its various businesses and local spots. On June 10 and 11 at Mill Street and Radcliffe, Deluxe will be conducting a “title sequence,” for which it wants as many people to fill the streets as possible. The idea is to showcase the downtown area and have it packed with people while they film the event. Shooting will begin at 7 p.m., so people should start arriving at around 6:30 p.m. Everyone in town is invited to take part in the fun.

Also on June 11, Deluxe will hold a final ceremony near the docks where they will talk about the work they’ve done with the business community and how the process came together. The ceremony will begin at 6 p.m.

“This is really the culmination of all of our work in Bristol, and it is a chance for our team to say thanks to this amazing community for how you all have embraced us. We want to celebrate one last time with Bristol as we finish the filming process and get ready to launch Season 2 of the Small Business Revolution — Main Street this fall,” said Amanda Brinkman, chief brand and communications officer of Deluxe Corporation.

On June 12, Deluxe will hold a half-day small business marketing seminar at the Bristol Riverside Theatre. Marketing experts will discuss the importance of social media, website development and other key aspects of small business marketing. The seminar will take place from 9 a.m. to noon, and though it’s designed for small business owners or entrepreneurs thinking of starting a business, it’s free and open to the public. Anyone interested should RSVP by June 9 at eventbrite.com/e/small-business-marketing-101-tickets-34828922244.

Deluxe has been working closely to enhance Bristol’s business district. To highlight upcoming shows and events in the past, a large banner was hung over the street and fixed to buildings, but it kept falling down. Deluxe will install two sets of polls on Mill Street that will be used to hang the banners. This will keep them secure and allow businesses to advertise two things at once so as not to compete for the one space.

Lastly, a new sound system will be installed, and should be completed by the filming on June 10. Pezza reflected on the party the borough had after winning the Small Business Revolution. There was free food and music, and though it was one of the happiest nights in Bristol, attendees couldn’t hear much of it because of the poor sound quality. This new system will come in handy during future local events that rely on sound, such as the annual tree lighting ceremony.

“We’re on a roll,” Pezza said. “Let’s keep it going.” ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com