We talked to: Downtown Northampton Association

We chatted with Amy Cahillane, Executive Director of the Downtown Northampton Association (DNA). The DNA is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and improving the economic and cultural vitality of downtown Northampton. They have one paid staff member, and a dedicated Board of Directors comprised of volunteer members representing a myriad of facets of our downtown community.

And how are things going in general for downtown Northampton?

I would say that downtown is really excited that warmer weather is finally here, with outdoor dining going up, and some new business openings, including Wine Witch. We are feeling more optimistic now than we have in the past couple years in terms of how downtown is doing and how businesses are managing. Of course, there are still challenges, such as hiring staff and price increases for everything from gloves to paper to avocados. Because of this, businesses are forced to raise prices, which is definitely tough on the small business environment downtown.

That said, as we move into summer, the fact that many places can offer outdoor dining options is a huge selling point. Many people are still not entirely comfortable dining indoors, yet want to get out of the house and enjoy a meal cooked by someone else! It’s tougher for retailers in this respect, but if folks are out and about, dining and listening to music, they are also more likely to browse and shop.

And while people often assume downtown does not have enough parking, particularly with jersey barriers up and a couple of streets closed, there are ample options—whether you go for a parking garage space, check out one of the multiple lots, or snag a spot on a side street. There are even more 15-minute spaces, too, which are convenient if you’re just running into a restaurant to grab food to go or making a quick planned purchase.

What are some challenges downtown has encountered in the past two years since the beginning of the pandemic, both personally and professionally?

For some businesses, online shopping and ordering has been a serious boon, but for others that have not quite gotten to that point for various reasons, they have taken some hits.

from people working from home and frequenting their daily coffee and breakfast spots less, to people who used to shop on their lunch breaks just not venturing forth as much. I can see things are starting to become busier again now, though, and with the warmer weather, many people will be eager to get outside, listen to live music, and enjoy some al fresco dining.

On a personal note, what do you do to unwind/relax/rejuvenate?

My more serious answer is that I’ve started enthusiastically exploring all the trails in Northampton, and especially in the Florence area. Being outside as much as possible has been a great way to escape for a bit and feel revitalized. Otherwise, I try to keep myself fully caffeinated at all times—I have a order at every single coffee shop. So, to recap, I'm either over-caffeinated or in the woods, there’s really no in-between!  And I’ve also been enjoying taking my son on tours of colleges as he gets ready for his next big step in life.

Is there anything you’re excited about regarding downtown Northampton in upcoming months, from events to other things?

I’m excited to plan events, and get the word out about cool things that are happening downtown. After spending two years standing in parking lots, handing out emergency supplies and generally dealing with all manner of Covid-related updates and challenges, I’m looking forward to some fun times that will enliven downtown and make us feel a bit more “normal” again.  With the Sidewalk Sales,  Summer on Strong, and other fun events to look forward to, I really believe it’s going to be one of the best summers we’ve had in a long time.

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