It’s been less than twelve weeks since Britney and Wes Wilkerson opened their shop on Lebanon’s square. Wilkie’s Outfitters boasts a brand new, renovated exterior and a beautiful interior brimming with outdoor clothing, supplies and accessories for men and women.
“Our push is to shop local. We wanted something where people could park their car and be able to walk,” says Britney Wilkerson, who has spent the past fourteen years as a special education teacher in Wilson County.
The Wilkersons join a centuries long tradition of retail in Lebanon’s square.
“Lebanon was founded in 1802, and it was founded with the auction of town lots to create our square,” explains Kim Parks, the executive director of Historic Lebanon. “So it’s always been the heart of the city.”
As the heart of the city, Parks is working with people all over the Lebanon and Wilson County community to keep the square’s unique vibrancy thriving. A crucial part of that is Lebanon’s designation as a Tennessee Main Street Community in September 2013.
“I think it has given Lebanon focus, which is important, because we have to keep things focused. It’s a goal for people each year,” adds Parks. “You can track your progress, which we hadn’t been doing before as far as new businesses. I think it’s all economically driven, so this is a good way to talk about your return on investment. It gives you those tools to do that.”
Lebanon is one of 28 designated Main Street program communities across Tennessee. Tennessee Main Street is a coordinating partner with the National Main Street Center. Designated communities are required to meet national accreditation standards annually, which include illustrating broad-based community support for the program, development of a comprehensive work plan, a sufficient operating budget and professional staff with volunteer support.
“The accreditation adds seriousness to your purpose,” says Parks, “It adds clout and I think that was one of the main reasons we wanted to be part of the Tennessee Main Street.”
Since becoming a Main Street Community, Parks points to a number of improvements to the Lebanon square, one of the most important being a complete reworking of the traffic flow, additional parking in the corners of the square, as opposed to around the middle and crosswalks. All of these changes were made possible through a safety grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation.