Doing Downtown Dover Right

Entrepreneurs are working to attract others to the city through an innovative partnership.

Walking the dirty sidewalks of downtown Dover, Todd Stonesifer realized one day he wasn’t happy with what he saw—empty storefronts and few people. 

“We don’t have the culture I would like to have in the town where I’m raising my children,” says the Dover real estate agent. He wanted a livelier downtown, more shops, more restaurants, more happenings—and he wanted people to love the city as much as he did.

So he called some friends with downtown businesses, a group of 10 young entrepreneurs who shared his vision: energizing the heart of Delaware. Together they formed D3: Destination Downtown Dover. 

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“We decided to do something and have it happen quickly,” says Jenny Mabus, owner of Bayard Pharmacy on Loockerman Street. 

They founded the group in April 2015, and had their first event that May. History, Heritage and Hops was a brewfest that brought thousands of people out to eat, drink and dance in the streets downtown. They followed it with OktDoverFest in October, keeping to the food, music and beer formula that was so successful in the spring.

The more people they get downtown, the more people will see how great it is and the more likely someone will go back to shop or want to open something new, Mabus says. D3 members are willing to give whatever help they can to other businesses that want to move downtown. It’s a successful spot, she says. Her own business continues to grow after two and a half years. 

The group is always looking for new ways to build the downtown brand, partnering with economic development and tourism groups whenever possible. They hope to have at least four events in 2016.

And Stonesifer quit walking the dirty streets of downtown Dover. Instead, now he walks the clean streets. The group used money raised from the festivals to have the sidewalks power washed. 

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