CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A local non-profit that aims to address the revitalization needs of Charleston’s East End and West Side neighborhoods will soon launch a survey to business owners in those areas to assess where they currently stand.

Ric Cavender

Charleston Urban Works, formally known as Charleston Main Streets, will start launching its small business survey to Charleston East End and West Side business owners over the next couple of weeks.

Urban Works Executive Director Ric Cavender said on 580 Live with Dave Allen last Wednesday that the survey is part of a project they’ve been wanting to get underway for over four years now since before the Covid Pandemic.

Now, after receiving a grant to hire a consultant to help shape the survey, Cavender said it marks the initial phase of a series of ongoing work the organization plans to take on moving forward.

“We’re viewing this small business survey project as sort of a foundational aspect of the work that we’re going to be doing over the next three years,” Cavender said.

He said they plan to launch the survey through their typical format of social media, but they also plan to go around door-to-door to the businesses and have them fill out the three page survey, which Cavender said should only take about 10 minutes to do.

Cavender said the survey will ask business owners questions such as how does their business look now compared to four years ago, from a general revenue standpoint, the number of employees, etc.

He said the questions will also consist of topics that range from anything having to do with what owners would like to see more of, or less of, outside of their doors through the utilization of various capital improvement projects– from gateway welcoming installation, landscaping, more public art or recycling receptacles, to graffiti removal.

Cavender said they are probably looking at conducting the survey to over 200 businesses across the East End and West Side districts over the course of the next couple of months. He said the gateway area of the West Side, in what everyone calls Elk City, has over 80 businesses alone.

Cavender said they need the business owners’ information in order to keep improving and advancing the area forward.

“We can’t do our work as an organization unless we have that really important information gathered from the folks that are living it every single day,” he said.

He said at the end of the survey, owners are given a chance to identify what they feel are the three strongest assets in their district, as well.

Cavender said it should be very interesting to see where the businesses stand now versus four years ago when the pandemic initially broke out in March of 2020, as local businesses were some of the entities most impacted and most greatly altered by the course of events that were unfolding during the time.

He said the pandemic affected every industry differently. They saw office space go either entirely remote or at least reexamine policies and downsize how much space they need, Cavender said, while the restaurant industry relied on drive-thrus, curb side pickups, and to-go options to stay afloat.

He said the Charleston district businesses, of course, faced a series of unique challenges of their own during the Covid-19 impact.

“What we’ve experienced is just the personal decision of the business owner to just move out of state, go onto their next venture,” said Cavender. “In a lot of cases we didn’t see folks say there’s just not a lot of foot traffic down here so we can’t keep our doors open, we didn’t really see a whole lot of that, because what we’ve seen is that if you build it they will come.”

As the districts are still working to pull out of the damaging affects on its businesses from the onset of the pandemic, Cavender said they have definitely seen a positive turn around with more businesses coming into the area and more and more revitalization efforts being deployed.

He said the survey will help the businesses in the districts not only assess where they are now, but it will also help them continue to take their business into the future.

“We’re going to be asking for many volunteers in our organization to help with this, I as a staff person will be going around collecting that information, and this is something that we’ve never really done at this level before, so again, we see this as a foundational aspect of the work we’re going to be doing over the next three years,” said Cavender.

More information regarding the launch of the survey will be posted to Charleston Urban Work’s Facebook page in the next coming weeks.