If you’re not up to date with the happenings over at Intown Concord, there’s been a bit of a transition going on. Okay, well kind of a big transition.
The two-person team of Liza Poinier and Susan Sokul decided to say their goodbyes, opening the way for Michelle Motuzas Johnson to take over as executive director and Kate Fleming to become the new events and outreach coordinator.
Both began work in October and since they’ve had a little time to get comfortable, we decided to catch up with them last week to see how things have gone thus far.
How long have you lived/worked in Concord? And how long have you been a fan of the Insider?
Fleming: We moved to Concord in June 2015. We actually live across the bridge from the Concord Monitor/ Insider and because of that I became interested in the publications. What better way to get to know your neighborhood than to read the local paper!
Johnson: I just moved to Concord and I am thrilled to be here. I have worked in Concord in the past, but commuted from Manchester.
I am getting to know the Insider along with all the different neighborhoods and areas of Concord.
What did you do before joining Intown Concord?
Fleming: Aside from being a mom to two ridiculously loud little girls? Oh, well I was a Montessori preschool teacher for a few years and before that I ran a fashion public relations firm in NYC and way, way back I was a coordinating producer for HGTV and Food TV. I know, it all sounds a little random but I’ve actually been able to weave those experiences together and apply them to my job here at Intown.
Johnson: I have a 20-plus year history of administering nonprofits, mostly in the historic/cultural area. Early on in my career I worked for nonprofits in the social arena.
Locally I have worked at the Currier Museum, the Millyard Museum, Segway (giving historic tours of Manchester), the state of N.H. and the American Independence Museum in Exeter.
My last position was however in a small, environmental engineering firm doing marketing and admin.
What made you want to be part of the new Intown Concord team?
Fleming: I have loved Concord since the day we got here. Our first experience was Halloween Howl, which is something Intown Concord puts on every year. We had a blast. There were tons of families out and about and I really felt that sense of community right from the start. I’d like to be part of the community and I want to help make downtown great, so when I saw the job listing I knew I had to be part of the team! I did a happy dance when I got the job – you can fact check that with my husband.
Johnson: Everything! A friend suggested the job and I said “No, I am not looking.” She pushed and I pushed back. I finally consented to check out the listing on the website and as I moved down the bulleted list of duties I thought “Oh . . . I like to do that, oh . . . I miss doing that, I’m good at that.” So I applied and very quickly became attached to the idea of working/living here. After my second interview I took Liza aside and frankly asked why she was leaving. It was a great opportunity. She assured me that there were no demons in the closet and it was just time to move on. I get that. In nonprofits, many administrators choose to move on from great organizations in order to bring fresh energy into it, and also to move on for new personal and career challenges.
How have things gone so far?
Fleming: Great. Definitely a lot going on, but I am really enjoying it. I love meeting the merchants, getting to know what makes Concord tick, and being a point person for events like Midnight Merriment is fun for me. I feel lucky to work with Michelle – right from the start I think we just knew we’d be a good team. I truly respect her and value her expertise and I’m looking forward to the years ahead.
Johnson: Things are great! Kate and I have hit the ground running, getting our feet wet with the Halloween Howl and Midnight Merriment. Getting to know the faces behind the businesses and shops has just added another, more personally appealing dimension to living and working here in Concord.
You’ve probably met a lot of people thus far, any tricks to remembering all those names?
Fleming: One time I was told that if you meet a person you need to say their name three times in the next minute for it to stick in. So, that’s what I do. Maybe it sounds weird to them but it pays off in the end because I’ll always remember!
Johnson: Kate. She remembers names better than I do. So I am always asking her. I am also considering making a flow chart!
Do you have Susan and Liza on speed dial yet?
Fleming: Oh yes. Well, Liza is still here helping with the transition and it’s been so helpful to have her in the office. She is a wealth of information and comfort, and she’s so supportive which helps make this busy time more manageable. For a while Susan was getting the “Hey there, do you have a minute to talk?” texts from me but those are becoming less and less. But knowing they are there and happily available for any question is very reassuring.
Johnson: From day one. I keep a running list of things to ask and explanations needed. We are very, very lucky to have Liza and Susan still available to us. They are both committed to setting both Kate and I up for success. Their time spent with Intown and their general knowledge of Concord has been invaluable to us, both relative newcomers!
What’s your favorite thing about Concord?
Fleming: I love Main Street and downtown and I am not just saying that because I have to! When I lived in Brooklyn, one of my favorite things to do was just walk around the streets scattered with unique shops and restaurants and aimlessly wander. I’ve found that I’m also able to do that on Main Street. Downtown Concord has some great shopping, dining and historic landmarks. I also love that my favorites activities such as skiing, hiking or going to the beach are just an hour away.
Johnson: The community. The difference I have seen just from 12 miles south in Manchester is incredible (and I really don’t mean to bash Manchester . . .) People say hi to me on the street that I don’t know, every day in the elevator at the Smile Building I get wished a great day by strangers. You can tell people take pride in their city, in the community and how others see them. I also love that I very rarely have to venture outside of downtown for any of my needs. There is such an assortment of shops, businesses and restaurants here that I very rarely have to travel in order to get any of my needs met!
You’ve now been through the planning for two of the bigger events, Halloween Howl and Midnight Merriment, do you feel ready to tackle Market Days yet?
Fleming: Are you trying to make me break out in hives? January is when the planning for Market Days starts and I will be 100 percent ready to tackle it. Until then, I’m going to take a nap.
Johnson: Yes and yes, but only after some recouping for the next few weeks! It’s a huge undertaking; we will not be reinventing the wheel. Market Days is a great event that has all the pieces in place. We have wonderfully knowledgeable people who have gone through the planning of many Market Days around us.
What is one thing you’d like to see come to Concord, whether it be a business, restaurant or something else really cool we haven’t thought of?
Fleming: I am a huge fan of music and would really love to get some kind of music festival or concert series going on. I think it’s a ways out, but I do believe people would be drawn to something like that and I am sure there are some pretty fantastic bands and musicians all over the granite state. Music brings people together!
Johnson: I know Kate is going to answer this with music. I want to see more arts events in the downtown area. Perhaps bringing in plein air painters for a weekend event. It’s something that can be easily planned, would bring people downtown to enjoy both the painters, their creations and then stay and eat and shop.
It must make your job easier to have a completely redone Main Street to show off?
Fleming: It’s definitely been a huge talking point and with the wider sidewalks and bump outs it’s easier to offer more attractions during events like Midnight Merriment. They did a fantastic job with the construction and design. I know it was a long road but the merchants were all so patient and I think everyone agrees it was well worth the wait.
Johnson: The new revitalized Main Street is truly a gift to us right now as we start out. The headaches are behind, the potential of the wider sidewalks; a walkable, friendly and safe downtown is a boon to an organization such as Intown. My goal is to take Intown to a new level.
Any big plans to add to the list of great events that Intown Concord already puts on?
Fleming: Of course! But if I tell you then you’ll hold me to it . . .
Johnson: Kate and I both have tons of ideas that we start to flesh out, and then tell each other. “We will sit down after Midnight Merriment . . .”
Tell us something interesting about yourself that our readers might enjoy:
Fleming: I throw a pretty awesome dance party with my girls. Maybe my neighbors can see, but I don’t think most people know I can cut some serious rug.
Johnson: I was just published by Schiffer Publishing. I am an artist and created a deck of oracle cards and wrote the book to go with. I also have a deck of color your own tarot cards coming out in late 2017.
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Fleming: Oh, that’s such an easy one, bananas.
Johnson: Green smoothies (cue the groans out there!)
Do you have any hidden talents or guilty pleasures?
Fleming: I actually like to think I have a pretty good singing voice, my 2-year-old does not agree, but I am thinking of getting her hearing checked.
Johnson: I love organizing my friend’s closets. Honestly, whether they want me to or not, that doesn’t matter to me.