DBA looks to grow membership base

The organization hopes to include 80 percent of area businesses.

Barry Lytton

Under new leadership, the Dinkytown Business Alliance has begun work on one of its president’s highest-priority initiatives — membership.

The DBA is sending letters and calling on current members to help grow the organization’s membership base.

While most businesses in Dinkytown are currently members, the DBA’s new goal is to increase membership while bringing in an array of businesses, property owners and community organizations.

Business and property owners within the physical boundaries of the small-business district can be voting members, while residents and community institutions, like the University Baptist Church, can become associate members — meaning they can’t vote but can still be a part of decision-making conversations.

DBA President Mike Mulrooney, who has been in his position for more than six months, hopes to expand the group to include 80 percent of the area’s businesses. Still, he said he’s not sure how many businesses currently make up the DBA or how many he will have to add to achieve that goal.

Before Mulrooney took his spot as the head of the organization, Skott Johnson, the former owner of Autographics Printing, led the group. Under his leadership, Mulrooney said, formal participation with the DBA was inconsistent — businesses could sign up at any time during the year. Now, Mulrooney wants all members to enroll with the organization in January.

“Everything we do is to drive business and people into Dinkytown,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any business or non-business that won’t benefit from more people.”

Rev. Doug Donley of the University Baptist Church  is one of the DBA’s newest voices. The church has been in the Dinkytown neighborhood for over a century, and Donley has been the church’s reverend for the past 13 years. And after years of sporadically attending meetings, Donley said, he wanted to be officially involved with the DBA.

“We have a vested interest in what happens in the neighborhood,” he said. “We’re supportive of the merchants, [and] we’re supportive of the property owners.”

Mulrooney said he’d ultimately like to see all area business and property owners join the group.

New and diverse membership will hopefully add different interests and opinions and give new voices a chance to be heard, Book House owner Kristen Eide-Tollefson said.

“The landowners who have been most involved were the ones who have also owned a business,” she said.

The added members are a welcome change, said John Rimarcik, owner of Annie’s Parlour and the Kitty Cat Klub.

Rimarcik said he has been a member since 1975, and over that span, the organization has played an integral role in the area’s vitality.

“It’s always a good idea to look for younger and fresher ideas,” he said.

Jamie Schumacher, the executive director of the West Bank Business Association, said her group adopted a paid membership model in 2011.

Since then, the organization has seen an increase in membership every year, she said. There are more than 100 businesses in that area, and the WBBA includes about 40 of them.

The DBA’s push for membership couldn’t have come at a better time, Eide-Tollefson said, as the organization is considering a plan to market the entire Dinkytown area rather than individual businesses.

“It’s just opening the doors wider,” she said.