Shires Byway will tie into local marketing efforts
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | September 06,2013
BENNINGTON — With the signs for the Shires of Vermont Scenic Byway in place, the committee behind the project is moving to the next step, the creation of information kiosks located across Bennington County which will allow local businesses to promote themselves at an affordable cost.
The byway runs north to south, primarily along Route 7A, from Manchester through Bennington and ending in Pownal.
Informational panels will be put up outside in the Northshire where the byway meets the Stone Valley Byway in Manchester and in the Southshire near the juncture with the Molly Stark Byway in Bennington. The Manchester panel will be by the Northshire Bookstore and the Bennington panel will be at the Four Corners.
The Shires byway gets its name, in part, from a long-standing marketing effort to promote Bennington County using the term, “The Shires of Vermont.” Because Bennington County has two county seats, Manchester in the north and Bennington in the south, it is divided into two shires within its county borders.
The final piece of the Shires byway project will place 50 different informational kiosks throughout the county, 30 of them being wire brochure racks but another 20 of them having brochures as well as interpretive information.
Jonah Spivak, co-chairman of the volunteer Shires byway committee, said that information will include highlights of the byway, a map of the byway and “location-specific information” for each site.
“The idea is this: When visitors come to our area and go into a high-traffic location or a business or a welcome center, they’ll see one of these information kiosks and it will give them information about the region as a whole but also site-specific information about where they’re standing. (It will be) something interesting that happened where they are, whether it’s about the Batten Kill, it’s about Orvis or something about Manchester,” he said.
But the “key component,” according to Spivak, will be the local brochures. Spivak said he had a personal gripe with the brochure racks he’s seen in Bennington County that advertise for historic sites, attractions or businesses outside of the area.
“After we’ve done all this work and marketing and spent all this time and effort as a community and a region to bring people to our region, (visitors) look at these brochure racks and it’s like we’re telling them to go away. That’s what it feels like,” he said.
The cost for including a brochure in some of the existing racks is probably too expensive for a local business, said Spivak, who owns a local business in Bennington. While the cost for the proposed information kiosks hasn’t been finalized, Spivak said he hopes it will be as low as $99 a month for those who make a yearlong commitment.
“The primary goal of having a Shires informational network out there is that local businesses will be able to afford to be represented in those racks,” he said.
Spivak is now recruiting around Bennington County for the 50 sites that will serve as homes for the kiosks. He hopes the kiosks will be ready and in place by the spring.
Preferential placement will be given to local businesses although Spivak said he didn’t believe that other customers in the general area would be turned away if there are available spaces.
Those interested in hosting a kiosk or being part of the program can contact Spivak at firstname.lastname@example.org.