Saline's new website and professional branding campaign--"Be. Saline."--was launched last year, and Driskell says it's a good start--the website has about a thousand monthly visitors. But there's more reaching to do outside "the center of the doughnut," as Saline Area Chamber of Commerce director Larry Osterling calls it. The city of Saline has a population of around 9,000, and the doughnut itself includes five surrounding townships with a total population of 60,000.
"A vibrant downtown is critical," Osterling says. "It's the whirlpool effect--if you have movement at the center, it affects everything around it."
John Olsen, director of the Saline Downtown Merchants Association, says the group is helping by "trying to make any downtown event even bigger." Olsen, who owns Spotted Dog Winery with his wife, Jill, hosted a wine tasting with Pineapple House across the street when owner Joy Ely unveiled her latest collection of Vera Bradley handbags. The merchants sponsor semiannual Ladies' Nights Out--similar to events in Chelsea--and support Saline's Summer Music Series. Chelsea has Sounds & Sights on Thursday Nights, and Dexter has long had a Summer Concert Series. All bring in bands for weekly free outdoor concerts that also attract potential customers to downtown merchants.