CHESTERFIELD – The long-running business directory sponsored by the Hilltown Community Development Corporation as a way to promote businesses in the hills is entering a new era this fall – a digital era.
Since the 1980s, the Hilltown CDC has published a large paper directory that it has sent to thousands of households. Now, following a hiatus in distribution due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the directory is going digital only, supplemented by a few seasonal brochures.
“It was very expensive to produce,” said Hilltown CDC executive director Dave Christopolis. “At the end of the day, we agreed on what we do now.”
While the Hilltown CDC has had an online directory for years, Christopolis called it “lame” due to internet connectivity issues. However, with most hill dwellers now having access to broadband, the decision was made to invest in the online directory. Businesses can pay to be listed in the online directory, and Christopolis said they will have more control over their online listings.
Prior to this move, Hilltown CDC surveyed area business owners in May about their experience of the pandemic and their thoughts on the effectiveness of the old print directory. Of the 170 business owners who responded, many were concerned about the effectiveness of the directory because it is so difficult to track response.
The CDC also tested their ideas for promoting the hills as a distinct and cohesive place to “eat, live, and play,” which received favorable responses that Christopolis said made them more confident about what they were offering. .
“We will continue to focus on attracting people to the area,” Christopolis said. “You could spend a whole day in the hills and really have your every need covered.”
Christopolis grew up in the Berkshires, and he noted that the Berkshires and the Five College area of the Pioneer Valley have become destinations, while the hills are “usually left out”.
In order to help change that, Christopolis said the Hilltown CDC will release brochures themed around seasons and industries. The fall brochure, the first in this series, focuses on farm stands, tourism, apple picking and fall foliage and will feature 55 businesses.
“They’re in the print shop now,” Christopolis said. “We’re going to go through different seasons and different industries.”
He also said that the next brochure will tentatively focus on entrepreneurs.
“They are an important part of our business community here,” Christopolis said.
Christopolis noted that the directory is being sent to all households in the Hilltown area, with the last directory being sent out in 2019. He said the brochures, meanwhile, will be distributed to key locations, such as libraries and advice on aging. People can also request them by mail.
The pamphlets will also be distributed in the Five College area and the Berkshires through a pamphlet distribution company.
The cost of listing in the online directory is $100 per year, which also includes listing in a brochure. For $150, a business can be listed in the directory and listed in two brochures.
“Our main goal is to support our local businesses,” Christopolis said.
One of the companies committed to this effort is the Williamsburg General Store, founded in 1977 by husband and wife David and Carol Majercik in a 19th century building.
“This business, this store, is close to their hearts,” said David Majercik, speaking about what his customers tell him. “It just makes people feel good.”
Majercik now works for his daughter Heather, the current store owner. He said the store has signed up for the online directory and will appear in fall and summer brochures.
“The CDC is a very nice outfit,” commented Majercik. “We have been with them for a long time.”
He also said the Williamsburg General Store is looking to do more online, and what the Hilltown CDC is doing should really expand the company’s presence.
“We would like to do a lot more,” he said.
Another business that will feature in the fall directory and brochure is Oliver’s Farm Stand in Goshen.
“All publicity is good publicity,” owner Ruby Hutt said. “It was just a smart choice.”
Hutt said the printed directories remained on his shelf after he received them, and an online directory is a “more helpful resource.”
“People are going to come out,” she said.
Hutt also said she would push the directory and her company’s place in it.
“I hope people will use this resource,” she said.
Bera Dunau can be reached at [email protected]