The longtime business directory sponsored by the Hilltown Community Development Corporation as a way to promote businesses throughout the hilltowns is entering a new era this fall — a digital one.
Since the 1980s, the Hilltown CDC has published a large paper directory that it sent out to thousands of households. Now, following a pause in its distribution because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the directory is going digital only, supplemented by some seasonal brochures.
“It was very expensive to produce,” explained Dave Christopolis, the Hilltown CDC’s executive director. “In the end, we settled on what we’re doing now.”
While the Hilltown CDC has had an online directory for years, Christopolis characterized it as “limping along” because of internet connectivity issues. With most hilltown residents now having access to broadband, however, the move was made to invest in the online directory. Businesses can pay to be listed in the online directory, and Christopolis said they’ll have more control over their online listings.
Prior to this move, Hilltown CDC surveyed business owners in the region in May about their pandemic experience and thoughts on the effectiveness of the old print directory. Of the 170 business owners that responded, many had concerns about the effectiveness of the directory as response is so difficult to track.
The CDC also tested out its ideas of promoting the hilltowns as a distinct and cohesive place to “eat, live and play,” which received favorable responses that Christopolis said made them feel more confident about what they were proposing.
“We’re going to continue to focus on attracting people to the region,” Christopolis said. “You could spend a whole day in the hilltowns and really meet all your needs.”
Christopolis grew up in the Berkshires, and he noted that both the Berkshires and the Five College area of the Pioneer Valley have become destinations, while the hilltowns are “generally left out.”
As a way to help change this, Christopolis said the Hilltown CDC will release brochures themed around seasons and industries. The fall brochure, the first in this series, is focused on farm stands, tourism, apple picking and fall foliage, and will have 55 businesses listed in it.
“They’re at the print shop now,” Christopolis said. “We’re going to cycle through the different seasons and the different industries.”
He also said the next brochure will be tentatively focused on contractors.
“They’re a significant part of our business community up here,” Christopolis said.
Christopolis noted the directory used to be sent to every household in the hilltown region, with the last directory sent out in 2019. He said the brochures, meanwhile, will be distributed to key locations, such as libraries and councils on aging. People can also request them by mail.
The brochures will also be distributed in the Five College area and the Berkshires through a brochure distribution company.
The cost of being included on the online directory is $100 per year, which also includes being listed in one brochure. For $150, a business can be included in the directory and listed in two brochures.
“Our primary focus with this is to support our local businesses,” Christopolis said.
One of the businesses that’s signed on with this effort is the Williamsburg General Store, founded in 1977 by husband and wife David and Carol Majercik in a 19th-century building.
“This business, this store, tugs at their heart strings,” David Majercik said, speaking of what his customers tell him. “It just feels good to people.”
Majercik now works for his daughter Heather, the current owner of the store. He said the store has signed onto the online directory and will be appearing in both the fall and summer brochures.
“The CDC is a very beautiful outfit,” Majercik commented. “We’ve been with them for a long time.”
He also said the Williamsburg General Store is looking to do more online, and that what the Hilltown CDC is doing should really expand the business’ presence.
“We’d like to do much more,” he said.
Another business that will be in the directory and the fall brochure is Oliver’s Farm Stand in Goshen.
“All advertising is good advertising,” said owner Ruby Hutt. “This just was a smart choice.”
Hutt said the printed directories sat on her shelf after she got them, and that an online directory is a “more useful resource.”
“People are going to be out and about,” she said.
Hutt also said she’ll be pushing the directory and her business’ place in it.
“Hopefully people will utilize this resource,” she said.