Mari Eosco, the chairwoman of the Bath City Council, is also the former interim director of Main Street Bath, a nonprofit group working to preserve and promote the city’s downtown.

BATH — Mari Eosco has at least two reasons to want the city’s historic downtown to flourish: she is an at-large City Councilor and chairwoman of the council, and she is the interim director of Main Street Bath, a nonprofit organization working to preserve and promote downtown Bath.

Downtown Bath has seen continued growth and sustained success, and last year, the popular Bath Brewing Company opened its doors for the first time. There are old favorites like Reny’s and Bracket’s Market, but there is always room for more, Eosco said.

Eosco, speaking before leaving her position as the interim director of Main Street Bath and not as a councilor, talked to the Coastal Journal in January about organizational goals for this year, challenges facing Main Street Bath and ways the community can continue to support the city’s vibrant downtown.

Coastal Journal: What are a few goals for Main Street Bath for 2019?
Mari Eosco: Certainly, the biggest goal for Main Street Bath in 2019, in my mind, is to hire a new director. This goal is in process, and we hope to have an announcement to make soon. I also hope MSB continues to utilize the new vision statement that was created in 2018 through an extensive community process to help shape individual committee goals and share with people who are new coming into our community. This vision will hopefully be what keeps us on track for what we, as a community, would like to see for our downtown going into the future.

CJ: What are some challenges facing the organization and facing Bath as this decade ends?
ME: Downtown Bath has a bulk of buildings up for sale due to Sagadahoc Real Estate selling the properties that have they have owned for generations. The real estate agency has been a great steward of the downtown and gotten us through tough times with their ability to keep rents at a low enough rate to allow small business owners to come in and make a go of it. Some businesses have flourished and become anchors, and many others have come and gone, but we have been able to keep life in our downtown through it all, with much credit to Sagadahoc Real Estate. With new building owners, that likely means new mortgages on the buildings and possibly rent hikes for tenants, which can be daunting for many business owners. Main Street Bath wants to help support them and their tenants and help them to understand and become part of the strong culture that has been created over decades.

Another challenge is the growth of Main Street Bath itself. Having been one of the first directors in the beginning, it’s hard to believe how much the organization has added over the years, while the staffing levels have not changed. There are one and a half staffers. I see one of MSB’s challenges is to figure out how to either add another person to the staff, which takes more money, or cut out some of the things that we do, while also considering the new ideas that come up all of the time. This is a tough one.

CJ: How has downtown Bath grown in the last few years and what is needed to see continued growth?
ME: It’s interesting to see how much has changed in downtown Bath over the past 15 years. For example, there was an old, underutilized building on a lot that now has a successful hotel, and there was a shuttered building where Brackett’s Market is now. While MSB cannot take direct credit for many of the physical changes downtown, we can celebrate the atmosphere that we’ve helped to create that has attracted people to want to invest.  Hopefully, we can continue to have a variety of businesses that meet peoples needs so they will choose to the experience of being in locally owned shops, restaurants and service businesses.

CJ: How has new businesses like the brewing company helped grow downtown and what more can be done to attract additional business?
ME: We have had a number of successful businesses that have anchored our downtown and attracted new business to come in over the past many years. It’s a cycle that continues. Bath has had one of the highest occupancy rates in our downtown for many years compared to (other towns) around the state. I suspect this will continue as Bath is bucking the trend in terms of younger people moving to the city who are looking for meaningful experiences when they choose to spend their time and money. People looking to open a business will hopefully see what is needed to compliment what already exists and create more of a reason for people to come downtown.

CJ: What more can the community do to support local business and to help downtown Bath flourish?
ME: Downtown Bath is the heart of the city, and it is a reflection of the health of our city. To keep our heart healthy, the community can do so many things to contribute. First, you can consciously choose where you spend your money. When people shop locally, they are supporting small business owners and putting money directly into our community. Secondly, people can volunteer. There are so many organizations to get involved with, including Main Street Bath. Figure out where to best share your talents and dig in and get involved. Not only is this gratifying, it is also one of the best ways to get invested in where you live. It is also a great way to meet people with similar interests and make friends.

Lastly, you can walk or bike. If you live within walking distance of downtown, do what’s good for your heart and walk or ride a bike. We live in a beautiful city, so enjoy the sights, get your blood pumping and make there be one less car downtown. And if you aren’t so lucky to be able to walk from home, choose to park further away, so you too can reap the benefits of our walkable city.

Jason Pafundi is the Coastal Journal’s associate editor. He can be reached at [email protected]

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