By Harriet Halbig
Tommie Plank, owner of the Covered Treasures book store and a founding member of the Historic Monument Merchants Association (HMMA) sat down with me a few days ago to tell me about her organization and its contributions to the community.
The mission of HMMA is to promote the historic downtown area, promote responsible development, preserve its historic character, create partnerships, support the arts, and encourage an active lifestyle.
The boundaries of historic Monument are from Front Street to Beacon Lite and Second to Third Streets.
The group began as an informal group of five or so business owners, including the owner of the Front Street Mall, Angels in the Attic, the Pankratz Pottery studio and a flower shop in addition to the book store. They decided to try to do a mailing to have an event the first weekend of December. Encouraged by its success, the group decided its activities should span more of the year.
HMMA as formally founded in 1995 and its membership grew.
They created the Concerts in the Park initially by having a single person (Woody Woodworth of the feed store on Washington Street) and his guitar. This grew into the use of Limbach Park and several acts, using a flatbed trailer as a stage and having Woody provide the sound equipment. Members of the HMMA would sell home baked cookies, water and sodas at the concerts to fund the building of a band shell.
When the new town hall was built on Highway 105 and Beacon Lite, the architect of that building offered to design the band shell. Once the band shell was constructed and the concerts were established, the HMMA passed the responsibility for booking acts and handling other details to the Tri-Lakes Chamber and refocused their efforts on attracting people to the downtown area during business hours.
They attempted events on Easter and Mother’s Day and found that the weather often did not cooperate.
Over time, the group worked with the town to promote street lights and decorative plantings throughout the area. Linda Pankratz, who was instrumental in founding Art Hop, was also active in the landscaping initiative as was town gardener Sharon Williams.
Currently there are several major activities sponsored by HMMA. These are the Safe Trick or Treat on Halloween each year from 4 to 6 p.m. to encourage young children to go door to door in a safe atmosphere, the Holiday Open House on the first weekend of November, the Shop Small Business event the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the Small Town Christmas on the first weekend of December, and the Art Hop during the summer. The Trick or Treat event is promoted to local elementary schools.
HMMA decided that Thursday is a good evening for the Art Hop, as many people leave town on Fridays in the summer. Those who attend come from the northern end of the Springs to the south end of Douglas County.
Plank said that people often move here with intention of enjoying a small town feel and frequent such events close to home. Local merchants appreciate the support of these residents.
The HMMA and the public works department of the town alternate in funding the banners promoting the events on the light poles in town.
As part of promoting the arts, the HMMA partners with Tri-Lakes Views, a group which selects works of art to place outdoors in the Tri-Lakes area. Several of these are next to the D-38 administration building on the corner of Jefferson St. and Second. I will speak with representatives of this group in the coming months.
Plank says that HMMA is sometimes criticized for being too inclusive. She said that they tried to coordinate with Palmer Lake and the shopping area on 105, but they didn’t seem to share the same need to attract people into the downtown area. They are willing to cross-promote, she says.
The Historic Monument Merchants Association is one of many in the area which contribute to a unique small-town feel. Many military members plan to have their last posting in the area so that they may take advantage of this atmosphere and enjoy the feeling of belonging that is lacking in larger communities.
In the coming months, we will meet representatives of other groups.