New executive director brings creativity and commitment to Middletown Main Street’s efforts
When Nick Manerchia became the new executive director of Middletown Main Street in January, he was able to get right to work planning the upcoming events like Fashion on Main and the Grapes and Grains Beer & Wine Festival because of his previous experience with the organization that is charged with revitalizing the downtown.
Although he's just 27 years old, Manerchia had already served on Middletown Main Street’s Board of Directors—and he was board president for two of those years. The knowledge that he already possessed about Middletown Main Street's purposes and practices made him an ideal candidate to take over the leadership role.
“I was already very familiar with the organization,” Manerchia explained. “And because I’ve been involved with the community, it has been a great transition. It feels right.”
Manerchia has spent most of his life in Middletown. His family moved to the town when he was 10. He started volunteering with community events while he was still in high school.
“I’ve always had a passion for this community,” he explained.
Manerchia graduated from Middletown High School in 2008 and started working at the Premier Center for the Arts as a teacher and show director. He’s probably best known around the area as an actor who has also taught acting at the Everett Theatre. He also worked at a branch of WSFS Bank as well.
It would be a tall order for anyone to replace former Middletown Main Street executive director Tracy Skrobot, but in Manerchia the organization has an energetic, creative, and dedicated new leader.
“As a person,” Manerchia explained, “I’m always extremely passionate about whatever it is that I am doing.”
Now, that passion will be targeted toward improving Middletown, one small building block at a time. Manerchia believes that it’s more important than ever to keep Middletown’s downtown vibrant and growing.
“Middletown is a small town, but it has grown so much,” he explained. “We still have the small town feel, and we want to keep that. It’s important to keep the traditions going. If Middletown Main Street isn’t doing it, these traditions may go away.”
Middletown Main Street already has a lineup of events and activities like Trick-or-Treat on Main and the annual Christmas Parade that bring families into the downtown for festivities that they enjoy year after year. He enjoys playing a role in keeping these popular traditional events alive for the next generation of Middletown residents.
He wants to take events that have been successful in the past and build on each one, but he also wants to develop new events and activities that will attract more people to the downtown.
One of the first events that Manerchia will be helping to plan is also one of Middletown Main Street's most successful fundraisers each year—the Fashion on Main event, which takes place each spring and fall.
For Fashion on Main, Middletown's growing group of fashion boutiques collaborate to organize a fashion show—a day of style, beauty, and fun—to showcase the latest styles and fashions that are available in the local businesses.
“It’s a hugely successful event,” Manerchia said. “It is really awesome to have so many boutiques in town who are involved. We get to be really creative to produce an awesome fashion show.”
People who attend the fashion show then visit the boutiques in downtown to buy some of the fashions that were on display.
Manerchia said that he believes people really enjoy the experience of shopping in a small, charming town like Middletown.
“People do want to come down to Main Street and shop,” he said. “And these unique shops are all within walking distance of each other.”
Manerchia is also hard at work planning the second edition of the Grapes and Grains Beer & Wine Festival, which is slated for May 14 this year. After the success of the first festival, the number of confirmed vendors exceeded last year’s event by the end of January. He said that he hoped to sign up twelve vendors by the time the event rolls around.
Another important component of Middletown Main Street's mission is bringing new businesses to town.
Manerchia's excited about the collection of boutiques and shops already in place, as well as the recent opening of Metro Pub & Grill, which is executive chef Patrick D’Amico’s creative take on American fare. Manerchia explained that the pub-style restaurant was constructed in Peachtree Station. The restaurant is open every day from 11 a.m. to midnight.
“The food is really great,” Manerchia said, adding that, the creative force behind the Metro Pub & Grill, the RM Hospitality Group, is also hard at work making plans to bring a new restaurant to the former Delaware Trust Bank building.
Having a variety of restaurants and eateries in town to attract visitors is very important, Manerchia said. He would also like to see a coffee shop come to the business district.
Getting the community to make Main Street in Middletown a part of their routine is one of the biggest challenges—as well as an opportunity.
Manerchia noted that, in the world of Twitter and Instagram, it’s always a challenge to get people to see what’s in town, and to become a part of the community.
“One of my biggest goals is to get people to come to Main Street to see what Middletown has to offer—to live in the moment and enjoy it,” he explained.
Because Manerchia stepped into the executive director position with considerable knowledge about Middletown Main Street's activities, he was already considering new events and making some changes to existing events during his first month on the job.
He said that Music on Main may be held two times instead of three times during the warmer months. And they may be adding a food truck festival and a classic car show to the lineup of events. Manerchia's also looking to stage the first musical production as a benefit for Middletown Main Street. A children's theater production for children between the ages of 5 and 18 has been selected as the first show, which will likely take place early in the summer. Manerchia hopes that the musical production will attract a diverse cast and a large audience.
“I’m hoping to do two shows a year,” Manerchia explained. “We’re starting with one this year.”
Another one of his goals, and one of the things that he is most looking forward to in his new role, is collaborating with the business owners, Middletown officials, and community leaders to build on and expand the lineup of existing events and add new ones. He’s hoping to increase the number of volunteers and board members who are engaged with all of Middletown Main Street's activities.
“I feel like we have such a strong core of supporters,” he said. “I love that sense of community and togetherness.”