With the retirement of longtime Gonzales Main Street Director Barbara Friedrich, the program has found their new director in Liz Reiley.
A graduate of Gonzales High, Reiley’s passion for Gonzales and its history grew during her time at the Gonzales Chamber of Commerce, making her the perfect candidate for Friedrich’s successor.
Starting such an important position during a pandemic has proven to be tough, but Reiley has some ideas on how to navigate the uncertain times.
“I was thinking of visiting one business a week and doing a little story with them and talking about new hours, how they handle people coming in and out of their shops and posting that to Facebook as well,” she said. “Hopefully that’ll help show people that we care and we’re still thinking about them and we’re open.”
The use of social media will be an integral part of Main Street’s new direction under Reiley. With her experience working at the chamber of commerce, Reiley hopes to hit social media heavy, using Twitter and Instagram to go along with their Facebook presence.
“More photos, more interaction between businesses and Main Street,” she explained, “just to let them know that we care.”
Before she begins those plans, although Reiley has already interacted with most of the business owners that Main Street covers, one of the first things she wants to do is connect with everyone.
“I’m going to walk door-to-door to meet everyone on Main Street,” she said. “Just to give them a face to put with a name.”
This familiarity is what helped her succeed at the Gonzales Chamber of Commerce, where she spent the last four years working as an administrative assistant.
“It’s been wonderful,” Reiley said of her time at the chamber. “I’ve met so many new people, it’s something different every day, so I’ve worked on all kinds of exciting events, and got to learn so much more about our history and appreciated it a whole lot more than I did going through high school.”
Her passion for Gonzales and its history brought her to Main Street.
“I think this was an opportunity for me to excel further in my career,” Reiley said. “I’ve already worked with all the business owners on the Main Street program personally and professionally, so I feel like I’m getting a jump start and we can move forward and more quickly. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to advance the program.”
Adding to that familiarity is the willingness to work with other programs to achieve whatever common goal they may have. During her time at the chamber, Reiley attended multiple conferences, learning how other chambers interacted with their Main Street programs in other cities. Reiley hopes to bring that knowledge into her current job as director.
“I’ve met a whole bunch of people that are on Main Street programs in other cities,” she said. “I think together we can combine our forces and kind of use the same types of programs that work and implement those things here.”
“My love for this grew through the chamber and my heart is with the chamber and I hope we can combine our forces and volunteers,” she added. “The more people we have on board, the greater the experience is for everyone. It helps us all reach our common goal.”
Main Street isn’t just the annual concerts that take place downtown, however.
“Main Street is focused on the preservation of the historic portion of Gonzales as well as helping the economic impact [of those businesses],” Reiley explained. “We do the façade grants, we do events, we try to bring new people here. If someone is coming from, say, Italy, we want them to feel like they should move here. Something they can call home. I know I appreciate that, raising my son here.”
With that, Reiley hopes to not only enhance the current events Main Street runs, such as the Summer Concert Series, Happy Fall Y’all and Winterfest, but also raise the program’s awareness, so that businesses can take advantage of the various grants available to them.
For now, Reiley is adjusting to “the new norm,” as she points out during the current pandemic. But even through this, she wants people to know that she’s “always available and cares a whole lot about Gonzales.”
“Please reach out to me if you have ideas, if you have criticisms, I would like to hear them,” she said. “I can always do better and I always want to be better. Help me help you.”