Riverwalk District reaching out to neighboring merchants
The Riverwalk Merchants Association got its start a decade ago with a focused marketing program for a carefully defined business district.
Now the pioneering business district is reaching out to its neighbors as it hopes to widen the appeal of downtown-area retailers and restaurants to residents of Reno and Sparks as well as visitors.
A Locals Guide to Local Shopping — a marketing effort that combines stores and restaurants in the Riverwalk District, the Midtown District and the California Avenue District — begins this month and will run through December.
The centerpiece of the marketing initiative is a map that details participating businesses and the discounts that they’re offering to local shoppers through the holidays.
“We want to blur the lines between the districts,” says Scott Dunseath, the vice president of the Riverwalk Merchants Association and the owner of Reno eNVy.
The Riverwalk Merchants Association includes about 50 businesses located within a block or two of either side of the Truckee River between Arlington and Lake streets.
Dunseath says the group is looking at other opportunities for wider promotional campaigns in cooperation with other self-styled districts.
(Along with the Riverwalk District, the California Avenue District and Midtown, merchants along Fourth Street have been trying to get together under the “Positively Fourth Street” banner, and there’s been chat about creation of a “Lake District” in the neighborhood around Moana Lane and Lakeside Drive.)
Among the promotional possibilities, Dunseath says, would be a celebration of Reno’s birthday in May — “Biggest Little Birthday,” anyone? — or a celebration of Nevada Day in Reno to complement the big blow-out in Carson City.
While new business districts work to define themselves, the Riverwalk Merchants Association created in 2002 has successfully developed programs that finance its promotional efforts.
Its monthly Wine Walk draws throngs who pay $20 each to sample wines at participating merchants.
Two years ago, the association launched a companion program, “Dine in the District,” which allows participants to sample dishes from the growing number of restaurants along the Truckee.
“Dine in the District” has drawn as many as 700 participants, Dunseath says.
“It’s bringing a totally different demographic downtown,” he says. “We’re getting foodies.”
While the Riverwalk merchants are looking south to develop partnerships with Midtown and California Avenue businesses, they’re also looking north to the big hotels.
The Reno Visitors Center that’s operated inside the Reno eNVy store at 135 N. Sierra St. through a partnership with the Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority is generating lots of visitor traffic from nearby hotels into the Riverwalk District.
“We’re helping to sell the region,” says Dunseath. “We view ourselves as stewards of the entire community.”
While the growth of dining options in the Riverwalk area is reflected in the popularity of “Dine in the District,” merchants in the area would like to see a parallel development of more retail.
Retail spaces are available at the Montage, the former Woolworth and J.C. Penney locations on First Street between South Virginia and Sierra streets, and the soon-to-be redeveloped post office building.
“The spaces are here,” Dunseath says.
But most of the Riverwalk association’s attention is devoted to getting the details right, rather than attempting to paint the future with broad strokes.
“If we stay focused on the smaller picture, the larger picture will take care of itself,” Dunseath says.
From a national standpoint, research shows the embrace of digital commerce is a whole decade ahead of schedule thanks to the pandemic. We spoke with the Retail Association of Nevada, Downtown Reno Partnership and the Reno+Sparks Chamber of Commerce to give local context to the growth of online retail.