Business community turns out to discuss Langley’s economic future

Sherry Mays and Russell Sparkman spearheaded the
Sherry Mays and Russell Sparkman spearheaded the 'Experience Langley' workshop at the Clyde Theatre this week.
— image credit: Roy Jacobson / The Record

LANGLEY — Nearly 200 people turned out Tuesday to look into the city’s economic future.

“There’s no reason we shouldn’t be THE place people come to,” said Russell Sparkman, a media consultant and Langley City Council member. “Langley can be special.”

Sparkman was the keynote speaker at “Experience Langley,” a workshop presented by the Mayor’s Council on Economic Health and the Langley Chamber of Commerce at the Clyde Theatre. The workshop focused on the importance of new social media technology, customer service and getting the right mix.

Included in the program was a panel of local business owners moderated by Sherry Mays, chamber of commerce director.

“Langley is our stage,” Mays said. “All of us are characters in the cast. Who are you willing to play?”

Participating on the panel were Marie Lincoln, owner with her husband Bill of Chocolate Flower Farm and Garden Shed; Priscilla Lowry of Lowry-James Rare Prints & Books; Tamar Felton, co-owner of the Star Store; and Bill and Samantha (Sam) Cass of Nymbol’s Secret Garden, one of Langley’s newest businesses.

“We need more locals, more visitors,” said Felton. “We try to listen to what people want, then ride that wave.”

“And we try to be a little goofy,” Felton added. “I give a lot of hugs.”

“It’s all about customer service,” agreed Lowry, “putting yourself out there again and again.”

“Everything we’ve done has been accidental,” Lincoln said, adding that the best move the couple made with Chocolate Flower Farm was the name and the company’s Web site — both have generated plenty of media attention.

“Find what makes you happy, and that will rub off,” said Sam Cass as the troll puppet Nymbol, on the hand of Bill Cass, perched on her shoulder.

“Just work with the other businesses and present your best self,” she said.

As he has in the past, Sparkman stressed an emphasis on arts, culture and education in promoting economic viability.

And he urged that local merchants take full advantage of the latest innovations in social networking, such as the Internet, Facebook and Twitter, to create a “groundswell” of support.

He urged Langley to become a “purple cow,” standing out from the herd of other scenic communities in the region.

“It’s all there within a walkable downtown core,” Sparkman said.

He urged the business community to be like Starbucks, selling a way of life, not just a product.

He said a good example locally is the city’s old fire station, offering hands-on demonstrations of glass blowing and beer making.

“People reward brands that promote the best experiences,” Sparkman said.

Mays said it’s up to merchants in town to work together to put words into actions to meet common goals.

“Things are already happening,” she said. “It’s all about talking together.”

“We can do this,” Sparkman added. “Let’s take this energy and carry it forward.”

Mays said another Experience Langley workshop would take place in April.

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