Downtown Blackstone Inc. (DBI) is the established organization in Blackstone with the duties of facilitating the VA Main Street Program. A nine member Board leads the organization. It is comprised of local volunteer stakeholders including two Blackstone Council members, local merchants, and an ex-officio seat for both the Town of Blackstone staff and Blackstone Chamber of Commerce.
The Main Street District encompasses the Town’s pedestrian-accessible commercial core. Defined by a mixture of late nineteenth and early twentieth century commercial architectural styles, this district allows citizens and visitors to peruse the storefronts in a largely intact commercial core stretching four full blocks (Tavern St. to Irving St.) with intersecting streets a full block deep to the west and a minimum of a half block east. Also included is the historic area of Schwartz Tavern and the Robert Thomas Carriage Museum.
The recent spark of interest in Blackstone’s downtown revitalization has encouraged many to reassess the aesthetic value of their properties and to begin to look for ways to improve. The mood of downtown owners and renters is optimistic for future business opportunities. In the early 1980’s, business and community leaders joined together to revitalize the town and surrounding community. The same forces are at work today, but our challenges are greater. Long range plans must be put in place to sustain slow, steady progress.
The Town of Blackstone has a history of striving to improve its downtown district, economic viability, and quality of life. The majority of downtown programs implemented over the years have been successful but lacked long-term sustainability. The lesson learned is that a comprehensive and cohesive approach is required for these efforts to provide continuous long-term benefit to the community.
Community support is vital to the success of this effort. Volunteers are the driving force. If you would like to volunteer for DBI, or one of its projects, please contact: Lafayette Dickens, Project Manager or download a volunteer form here.
- Ben Green, Chairman
- Francis Gilmore,Vice- Chairman
Gilmore Environmental Consulting
- Barbara Thompson, Town Council President
Town Of Blackstone
- Kim Moody , Secretary
Kim Moody Designs, trend.
- Lynn Shekleton , Treasurer
Citizens Bank & Trust Company
- Sam Moncure, Councilman
Town of Blackstone
- Louis Malon , Design Committee Chair
- Carolyn Davis, Business owner
- Michell Savee , Promotion Committee Chair
- Philip Vannoorbeeck , Ex-Officio
Town Manager, Town of Blackstone
- Jane Barnes , Ex-Officio
Blackstone Chamber of Commerce
- Lafayette Dickens, Ex-Officio
Program Manager, DBI
Downtown Blackstone, Inc. will provide leadership in developing and promoting Downtown Blackstone as an inviting place to visit and shop, a productive place to work and a profitable place to invest.
We will accomplish this mission
- through building partnerships and coalitions with
merchants, property owners, developers and
- through working to enhance and improve the look
and feel of the downtown streetscape; and
- through fostering vibrancy that attracts development
These activities will result in long-term sustainable growth in the downtown business community.
My name is Lafayette Dickens. I was hired as the Executive Director of Downtown Blackstone Incorporated in December of 2007. I left a career with Great American Opportunities, Inc., a fund-raising company headquartered in Nashville Tennessee. I was excited about the challenge of overseeing the day to day operations of the newly formed Virginia Main Street Program so I left a 28 year career in sales to serve the role of Executive Director of DBi.
What excited me most was the opportunity to do a lot of good in the local community in which I live. In fund-raising, I did a little good in a lot of communities but this presented itself as a unique chance to pursue a cause bigger than myself that I could one day look back upon and feel good about being a part of. The concept and methodologies used by Virginia Main Street intrigued me then and still do today. I have learned a wealth of new information during my tenure with DBi.
I am a native of Scotland Neck, North Carolina, a small town less than 2 hours southeast of Blackstone. I am an alumnus of UNC-Chapel Hill class of '79 where I earned a B.A. in Industrial Relations. In fact, the preservationist approach to revitalization took me back to a course that I took as a freshman at the University of North Carolina on art appreciation. You never know when those studies are going to actually come in handy. The architecture in the downtown buildings in our little town are worthy of being preserved and that is one of the basic tenets of the National Trust for Historic preservation which founded the Virginia Main Street program back in 1975.
The experience has been very rewarding. I have met many local committed volunteers who have a genuine passion for returning Blackstone to its former glory. In my previous career, my daily travels always took me away from this community but now, I am inextricably tied to it and the work has been very rewarding and meaningful.
My wife, the former Angela Bagley, is a native of Blackstone who teaches in a collaborative preschool classroom at Burkeville Elementary. We have four sons, two are students in the Nottoway County public school system and two have moved on to college. Our oldest son, Elliott is enrolled at Ferrum College and Jarrett has been accepted to attend James Madison University. Zachary is a rising Junior and Nathaniel is a rising Freshman at Nottoway High in the fall.
We moved our family here from Chesterfield county in September of 2002. I coached my sons for a couple of years in the Nottoway Recreation Basketball league in the ten and under age division where I met some of the local business people through working with their children. I met others inadvertently in the community on bike rides with my sons and through my wife and her family. We are members of Shiloh Baptist church here in Blackstone. I also have a daughter, Carita Demery. She and my two grand children, Jalani and Chaz live in Raleigh North Carolina.
The main street in my small hometown suffered the ravaging effects of the malls that hit hard in the early 70's so I have seen the scourge that necessitates revitalization first hand. I have always felt that Blackstone has one of the few still thriving small town main streets. Of course the last few years have seen a major fire take down two Historic buildings in the heart of downtown as well as some major retailers move out of the commercial district. In spite of these things, there is plenty left to build around and DBi is actively engaged in the process of making downtown Blackstone a pedestrian friendly place where locals and tourists alike will enjoy spending their time and money. We have already seen private investment flowing into the district and new businesses springing up and we are just getting started. Indeed, the future is bright and I am ecstatic to be a part of it!