Main Street Manager Draws On Colorful Past

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Although the tiny Wyoming town of Cody didn't have an actual Main Street, it did have a main roadway called Sheridan Avenue. And Karen Greenspoon has countless fond memories of growing up on that rustic road.

"Cody is an Old-West-looking town," Greenspoon said, "and it hasn't changed at all over the years. Sheridan Avenue still has those old, wood storefronts that go right up to the sidewalk, where people gather to shop, have a soda or just have a good time. There's shops run by every kind of craftsman you can imagine. The main intersection has the Irma Hotel, which is Buffalo Bill Cody's hotel, restaurant and bar.

"Every Fourth of July, there's the hugest parade you ever saw, with the Indians capturing people out of the crowd and doing the shoot-'em-up thing.

"It was just really folksy, and it has always brought tourists by the scores, because that's exactly what they want to see when they come west."

That last statement there is the tip-off that Greenspoon is not simply waxing nostalgic about her childhood. As the coordinator of the Payson Main Street Program, she is drawing upon a vivid memory to help envision a future for the Rim country's historic thoroughfare.

"That's what I'd love to see on Payson's Main Street, if that's what everyone else wants, too," Greenspoon said. "And it seems to be, from the information that we've gathered."

Greenspoon, a former hotel marketing executive and travel agency owner, has been doing lots of envisioning since January, when she was selected from 22 applicants to be the Main Street program's leader.

She spent the previous two-plus years running the Main Street program in Show Low, where she waded through a slew of initial detractors to turn the program into the state's largest, with a membership of over 80 individuals and businesses.

Prior to moving to Show Low, Greenspoon owned and operated a Tucson-based travel agency whose primary clients were entertainers such as pop legends Frankie Valli, the Four Tops and Tommy James not to mention her then-hubby, Jimmy Greenspoon, the keyboard player for the '60s chart-topping rock band Three Dog Night.

"I enjoyed it, but it was a 24-hour-a-day job, because those people don't sleep or work 8-to-5 jobs. I'd get calls at all hours of the night and morning for 10 years."

Any memorable stories from that period of her life?

"None that I could share with you," Greenspoon said with a wicked laugh. But then she gets serious. "People think that the band life is real glamorous, but it's stressful and hard and very easy to fall into drugs, alcohol and crazy lifestyles."

Before those stresses helped end the Greenspoon's marriage two years ago, they had decided to sell Karen's travel agency, move up to the White Mountains and retire in Show Low. But after a mere six months, she realized "that retirement was not the thing I wanted to do."

Greenspoon re-entered the work force as a police dispatcher ... from which she managed to make a very unlikely career leap which changed her life. When the town of Show Low created its first and only Main Street organization, the program needed a director and the local chief of police thought Greenspoon was perfect for the job.

"There isn't any BS degree in Main Street," Greenspoon said. "You have to be a little bit of everything; it's public relations, it's organization, and a lot of other stuff. You have to be a jack-of-all-trades.

"On a scale of 1 to 10, I probably would rate my job performance on the Show Low Main Street program an eight-and-a-half," Greenspoon said. "I accomplished a lot, and once we got it up and going, everyone in town supported it."

Greenspoon is still waiting for that kind of support from the residents of Payson.

"We've got a lot of education to do," she said. "The biggest challenge is letting people know what the program is all about. There are still misconceptions and people who are leery of the program, think it's never going to happen, or think too much money is being spent on it.

"There's still opposition to it, and that's because it hasn't had a chance to get off the ground and show people what it can do for the town.

"I grew up in a small town, and I remember all of the little things that long-time residents here remember about Payson.

"I would like to try to have that back again," Greenspoon said. "For the naysayers who think that we're spending too much on the program ... we have to give the independent business people in Payson the opportunity to compete with the big-box stores, and maybe fulfill their life's dream.

"And as far as the money goes, the national figures show that for every dollar that's invested in a Main Street program, there's a $38 return."

Greenspoon has no doubt that she'll be able to turn those naysayers around, just as she did in Show Low. And she has no doubt that there will come a time when her memories of Payson are even more fond than the memories of Cody, Wyo. which, Greenspoon finally admits, aren't entirely fond.

"One Christmas Eve as I was sitting at home, and the wind blew my back fence through the bathroom," she remembers. "I said, 'Well, I've had enough of Wyoming winters.' Arizona, here I come.'"

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