It takes a village

Barham, Mut organize first Conimicut business open house

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Conimicut is open for business – literally.

Wednesday Oct. 30 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. will mark the first annual Conimicut Village Downtown Open House event, where prospective small business owners will get the chance to view a wide array of available storefronts and office spaces in one of Warwick’s central, historic villages.

The concept is the creation of Century 21 realtor Meg Mut, and grew out of a partnership with Ginny Barham, president of the the Conimicut Village Association.

Mut, a New Jersey native who now lives on Warwick Neck, is selling one of the approximately 10 parcels that will be included in the open house tour, and figured she would take the initiative to turn that job into something that could potentially have a much broader impact on the community.

“That's what I do for my clients, I’m like ‘Let's create a whole event around it.’ That's professionally. But at the end of the day, I have a 16-month-old and I would love to be able to come to this downtown area and enjoy it with my daughter and have a breakfast spot or a coffee spot,” she said. “There's a lot of young families who have moved in here – I've sold them houses – and they're like 'What's up with the downtown?' I would tell them that I will make something happen in the downtown.”

It's an offer that Barham couldn’t refuse. Utilizing her proclivity for knowing everything going on in the village, she helped get in touch with the property owners of the vacant parcels and helped coordinate the event.

With the help of some volunteers, potential business owners will be able to tour any or all of the properties, or be more selective about seeing a particular type of parcel – big, small, office space, storefront, warehouse, etc. – that works best for their business dream.

Mut thinks that the benefits of Conimicut speak for themselves, reporting that 17,000 cars pass through the village center area each day. But to further sweeten the offer, she is assembling sponsors – she already has pledges from Sprint and Webster Bank – to put money into a pot that will ultimately be given directly to business owners who set up shop in Conimicut as a result of the open house.

This money could go towards first month’s rent, help mitigate some of the opening costs associated with setting up the business, or whatever they feel inclined to use it for. The only catch is they won’t get the money until their doors are open.

“It's mostly just for small businesses to be able to come in and learn about what the pricing is around here and just to do something that's innovative and different rather than just waiting for the right person to stumble upon it and to let them know that we're open,” Mut said. “We're open for business, we want you here, and we're going to support that. And we're going to support you financially through our sponsorships.”

The Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce is helping get out the word, as is the City’s Tourism, Culture & Economic Development Office.

“As an extension of Mayor Solomon’s Business Development and One-on-One programs, we continue to coordinate and assist with small business initiatives on a daily basis to further encourage growth and vitality to the community,” said Karen Jedson, Director of Tourism, Culture & Economic Development. “This event is a great showcase of partnership and outreach on behalf of the CVA and the City of Warwick.”

And although there are nearly a dozen properties that can be viewed for possible purchase by a new business, both Mut and Barham have modest goals set for the open house.

“This will be a success if we can come out of it with one new business here,” Barham said.

It is Barham’s hope that, along with the $133,000 in grant-funded streetscape improvements to the area that were approved by the city last month, adding new business life to the downtown village area could be the kind of developments that result in a needed re-infusion of life into Conimicut.

“It's a really quaint village and there's a very active community here in the village with an active association,” she said. “I think that something like what Meg is envisioning might be the stimulus we need to start. Because you need to start somewhere.”

Those interested in learning more about the open house event or who want to participate should contact Meg Mut at 609-598-2232 or by email at MegMutRealtor@gmail.com.

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