Local businessman Mark Bitter thought he’d been invited to the Noon Kiwanis meeting last Wednesday to talk about the MyTown Project. Actually, the invitation was also extended so the club could surprise Bitter, the recipient of the Great Bend Greater Award.
The local Kiwanis chapter presents this award each year to "someone who makes Great Bend a better place to live," member Paul Snapp said. Bitter was chosen in part because of the MyTown Project; he raised funds and served on the board of directors for the project, which opened several stores on Main Street. "A lot of storefronts are occupied in our downtown that otherwise wouldn’t be," Snapp said.
Kiwanis President Barb Konrade noted much of Bitter’s work was "behind the scenes," as he wasn’t looking for recognition. "We thank you for it."
"It’s truly an honor to be recognized," Bitter said. "Hopefully, we can continue to make a difference for a number of years."
The MyTown Project’s fourth anniversary will be in August, Bitter said. It began when a few local businessmen started thinking of how to revitalize downtown Great Bend. "A lot of times people have great ideas and they never act on them," Bitter said. "We could always hope somebody else would try to do something to repopulate our downtown."
While MyTown has had "moderate success," it has undergone some changes from its original idea of opening 10 different stores with some shared management. One of the original plans was to include an ice cream store, but that’s not going to happen. Instead, the Argonne Arcade was added to Treaders bistro in the area once planned for ice cream.
The newest addition to MyTown is the Package Express UPS store, added to the RB Tellers retail store in May. Soon it will be offering packing services; at present it provides a more convenient UPS drop-off for some people.
While there are no plans for other MyTown stores at present, filling several downtown storefronts has resulted in 12 other businesses not related to the project coming downtown in the last three years, Bitter said.