Historic Kennett Square, the nonprofit organization responsible for breathing new life into the town that’s become a highly sought-after place to live as well as a popular destination for visitors, is now Kennett Collaborative.
The new name encapsulates the mission, vision, and the nonprofit’s ongoing and vital work in the community, says Executive Director Bo Wright. The change to the name Kennett Collaborative also reflects the growth and vitality of the community itself.
The History of Historic Kennett Square
The staff and board of Historic Kennett Square have been working hard behind the scenes for decades to make Kennett Square the vibrant and thriving town it’s become. When the organization began, as the Kennett Square Revitalization Task Force, its mission was exactly that—“to preserve Kennett Square as a vital small-town commercial and residential center.”
In part as a result of the tremendous success of that early work—spearheaded by community leaders including Genesis founder Michael Walker, architect Jeff Norman, attorney Scudder Stevens, Chester County 2020 founder Nancy Mohr, chairman emeritus of the Kennett Library Board of Trustees Tom Swett, and implemented by Mary Hutchins—the name was changed to “Historic Kennett Square.” While the name reflected the charming historic feel of the town and capitalized on the popularity of tourist google searches for “historic,” the name has caused confusion and significant problems for the organization over the years.
“If you ask people on the street what Historic Kennett Square is, most of them would either tell you that it’s a place—the downtown historic district of Kennett Square, synonymous with the municipality, the Borough of Kennett Square—or that it’s the town’s historical society,” says Wright. “And even those who do know Historic Kennett Square is a separate entity and a nonprofit often have trouble articulating exactly what the organization does. Part of what we want to do with our new branding is help the community understand who we are.”
“Historic Kennett Square has always had to balance marketing the town, its merchants, and partner organizations with marketing Historic Kennett Square itself. While Kennett Collaborative is not the hero in the story of Kennett Square—the town itself is—we want community members and business owners to know what it is that we do, why our work is vitally important for the town and the region, and why establishing a strong base of support for our nonprofit is critical for the ongoing sustainability of our mission. That mission is to make Kennett thrive by intentionally creating programs and events that help Kennett become a more beautiful and welcoming community where all can belong and prosper.”
The name change also clarifies and distinguishes the key role of the new Kennett Heritage Center. “At Historic Kennett Square, we’ve received countless phone calls inquiring about the history of the town and the area. While much of what we do builds on the important and fascinating history of Kennett Square, we greatly value Lynn Sinclair’s passion and knowledge about the area’s history and our collaborations with her. And we’re delighted that, with the opening of the Kennett Heritage Center, there’s finally a home for this rich history.”
The Future of Kennett Collaborative
So what does Kennett Collaborative do? Wright smiles as he struggles to describe a typical day for the three-person team at Kennett Collaborative. From planning major events to meeting with community and regional leaders, conducting interviews, writing grant applications such as the AARP grant that provided funds to build the parklet for restaurants on West State Street last year, keeping the community up to date on social media channels, filling in special event applications for the Borough, creating brochures and preparing press releases to maintain Kennett Square’s profile in both regional and national news outlets, reaching out to potential sponsors and organizing fundraising for major initiatives like Light Up the Square, brainstorming ideas for future programs, leading various meetings on economic development—these are all part of a typical week, as are tasks like weeding and watering the Genesis Walkway and parklet plantings, putting up and taking down signage for our own events and those of partner organizations, watering the parklet plantings, changing the batteries for Christmas lights, and making sure Santa is available to make an appearance at the Holiday Light Parade. No two days are ever the same, Wright says.
“Kennett Collaborative is about bringing together a big-picture vision for the town and the region, and it’s also about keeping track of the thousand and one little details that make a big difference for how people experience a place.” While all of this is a lot for a small staff to accomplish, Kennett Collaborative’s size also allows it to be nimble and responsive to needs in a way that a larger organization could not be. One prime example of this is the Small Business Response Fund that Wright and his staff, with matching funding from Square Roots Collective, created to raise and distribute $281,000 to 61 small business owners during the early months of the COVID-19 shutdowns.
“Many people don’t realize that Third Thursdays, the KSQ Farmers Market, and the Holiday Village Market are all Kennett Collaborative programs, and that we’re the ones who buy the large town Christmas tree every year, do the tree lights on State, South Union, and South Broad Streets as well as the lighted garlands and other Christmas in Kennett decorations and placemaking activities,” Wright says. The Kennett Blooms parklets and plantings and Kennett Brewfest and Winterfest are also key programs. “Our Around the Square e-newsletter shares great new original content each week on topics like community development and local events and initiatives as well as stories like those in our popular ‘Meet the Merchant’ profiles. Most of the content we create is shared in local media outlets, too. In keeping with Kennett Collaborative’s mission to help make sure our community is becoming more and more inclusive, welcoming, and equitable, we’ve been honored to tell the inspiring stories of more Latino business owners and professionals, too. Celebrating this diversity is one of the best ways to share what makes our community so unique.”
The KSQ Speaker Series: How We Build Matters and the Kennett Placemakers Competition are Kennett Collaborative’s newest initiatives. These programs reflect the evolution of the community and its needs and the ways that an organization once called the Kennett Square Revitalization Task Force has kept pace by evolving to meet these needs. “Part of this shift is becoming an organization that champions the whole community and not just our main street (State Street), without losing our connection with the main street,” Wright says. “The KSQ Speaker Series, continuing to create content advocating for a more walkable development pattern and good design and best zoning practices, the micro-transit study we’re administrating on behalf of the municipalities, and a survey we’re creating—again, in collaboration with other entities including the Borough, Square Roots Collective, and Penn Praxis—are all helping to establish Kennett Collaborative as a leading voice on economic development and land use issues in the Kennett area.”
As the name Kennett Collaborative suggests, collaboration is at the heart of Kennett Collaborative. The organization will continue to work to strengthen existing community partnerships such as those with organizations like Casa Guanajuato, KARMA, and the Kennett Heritage Center, the collaborations between the KSQ Farmers Market and the Kennett Library and The Creamery, and the critical mutual support between Kennett Collaborative and both the Borough of Kennett Square and Kennett Township in addition to partnerships with Longwood Gardens and other major sponsors. “We couldn’t be Kennett Collaborative without these collaborators,” Wright says. “We’re also launching a community-based membership program in tandem with our new name, asking people to consider becoming collaborators with us by investing in the work that keeps Kennett a great place to live, shop, dine, grow your business.”
Find more information on the new Kennett Collaborators membership here. The first 100 Kennett Collaborator members will receive a Kennett Collaborator window cling!