These are the best of times for Berlin as an unprecedented swell of community pride and entrepreneurial spirit has become deeply woven in the historic town.
What’s happening currently in Berlin is tremendous. It’s palpable and rooted in the belief the town is a hotbed for commerce and the epitome of a unique small town that likes itself the way it is and does not appear interested in growing beyond its means.
As is the case in Ocean City, special events are driving much of the town’s success. When events are held in Berlin, crowds come and that drives sales for local merchants. Last Friday’s bathtub races are the most recent example. That event was a dud for many years, but not anymore.
The community is buying into Berlin, and there are new partnerships bringing that spirit to life. In a fairly unprecedented move around these parts, the town and its Chamber of Commerce recently partnered with Irie Radio, the station based at Seacrets in Ocean City, on an innovative marketing campaign. In exchange for advertising, the radio station broadcasts live from the town during select events, sponsors some activities and even puts on a widely popular concert event in May.
While that campaign is a direct result of the city spending money with the station, the town’s indirect marketing has improved as well with media outlets throughout the region often including stories and photos documenting Berlin events. This newspaper alone had six front page pictures of Berlin events over the last year and dozens of articles promoting those same events. Five years ago, there were two front-page images. Indeed, the vibe is out about Berlin and it’s continuing to spread.
With all this success, Berlin and private enterprise must carefully move forward. The downtown renaissance is undeniably a true success story and is pointed to as an example of how to have a resurgent downtown area on the Eastern Shore, as the Salisbury City Council recently pointed to Berlin’s commercial model as perhaps an example they should emulate.
What Salisbury and even Ocean City should take note of is Berlin government officials understand they are not to be the story. When knowledgeable and informed citizens think of Salisbury and Ocean City government, they think of division and animosity. In Berlin, there may be some simmering undercurrents of discontent among some, but government officials are not the story. They don’t get in the way of the town’s progress and evolution.
People want to live in Berlin and do business in Berlin. It’s in high demand and that’s an exceptional thing.
Although the excitement surrounding the town’s commercial growth is laudable, it comes with legitimate concerns. Can Berlin’s commercial district and year-round population of 3,500 really support five full-service restaurants within a mile of each on a year-round basis?
We hope so and only time will tell if the three new restaurants expected to open over the next month will see success. We are rooting for each of them as it broadens Berlin’s appeal and will only help existing businesses grow their sales, further spreading Berlin’s current wave of positive exposure.