OP-ED: Another spark of excitement for vibrant downtown York City


In the late 1970s, my husband Steve and I located our outdoor specialty shop, Shank's Mare, in downtown York. For over 10 years, we grew our business in center city. This may seem an odd location for an outdoor shop, but during that time the excitement of a thriving downtown was contagious. Many friends renovated homes in the "back to the city" neighborhoods, invested in downtown properties, began careers in downtown businesses and organizations, and even our parents sold their suburban home and moved to Downtown East. The heart of York was very good to us, and we were thrilled to be a part of the "scene."

By the mid-1980s the scene was changing. We were experiencing resistance in getting our customers to come downtown for evening programs, and in reality we were outgrowing our location in the terms of outdoor opportunities. We had been expanding our business by adding many outdoor programs, and we needed to be in a location that was conducive to these experiences. Reluctantly, we first moved to a suburban area, then finally landed at our Susquehanna riverfront location with water in our front yard and a hiking trail passing our front door.

While we believe we have found the right location for our business, our ties to downtown York are still strong. We depend on tourism for part of our customer base, and downtown York has so much to offer to people visiting our area. We draw on them through the York County Convention and Visitors Bureau. We play the role of a York County "outdoors" attraction while the market houses, craft breweries, shops, restaurants and other downtown attractions all compile to make a positive visitor experience.

One of the gems of York that we share our tourism customers with is the York County Heritage Trust. Not only do we send and get visitors from their museums, but we depend on the Trust to help us with our own in-house programs revolving around the history of the Susquehanna River area. They are a valuable resource to us as we develop programs that attract people to our business.

When we heard of the York County Heritage Trust's plans to develop a downtown history center in the Northwest Triangle of the city, we were once again sparked by the excitement of a vibrant downtown. This center would be located near the rail trail, Santander Stadium and all the attractions of downtown York that our visitors and customers love. We envision visitors coming to York for a multi-night stay where they would perhaps combine a Saturday morning visit to the market house or Royal Square, a kayak tour, lesson or hike with us, and a baseball game at Santander Stadium. And they would then need a full extra day to discover the history of York at the Heritage Center, an architectural walking tour of our beautiful downtown followed by a delicious dinner at one of our downtown restaurants and an evening show at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center.

The good news is that this is almost all current reality. There is so much to do in York and York County. With the addition of a "downtown history campus" that includes the Colonial Complex, with a center steps away that houses interactive and technology-based exhibits that tell the York County story, our visitors would have a positive York experience. We have such a vibrant story to tell in York and York County. I am anxious to share it with all who visit us.

Partnerships create a positive ripple effect, and we are living proof that it works. After 38 years in business in York, we can think of no other place we would rather be. Our efforts will continue to support quality experiences in York and York County, including the development of the York County Heritage Trust's "history campus" in the center of our vibrant downtown area.

— Liz Winand is co-owner of Shank's Mare Outfitters in Wrightsville.