In studying her next career move six years ago, Cherie Hall Talbert saw an opening with a small downtown marketing group as the perfect setting to put all of those interests and professional skills to work.
“It had all of those things,” said Hall Talbert, executive director of Downtown Grand Haven Inc., a downtown business association where she delicately balances the needs of a diverse constituency that has her continually moving in different directions every day.
On a typical day, she can go from a meeting at city hall to talk about signage for the business district or meeting with a committee of store owners, to helping a small business owner on a marketing plan to promote his store or working to lure a new business to downtown, to fixing a trash receptacle.
“Every day is different. I never get bored,” Hall Talbert said from her office overlooking the business district. “I love it. The people contact is almost non-stop every day.”
A political science major who was born in Grand Rapids but mostly raised in Detroit, the 35-year-old Hall Talbert came to Downtown Grand Haven Inc. in 1996 as the third director of the group that had been formed just two years earlier.
At the time, Downtown Grand Haven Inc. was still evolving and working to identify its role in the community. Today, the organization focuses on recruiting and retaining businesses while promoting downtown as not just a shopping district but a community gathering place that features a diverse collection of retail stores and professional offices.
Hall Talbert proudly points to a downtown vacancy rate of just 5 percent as an indication of the business district’s health.
As the group’s recruitment effort focuses on drawing unique retail offerings that will attract people downtown, the business district also has begun to see a transformation into an urban residential setting. Building owners are beginning to refurbish their upper floors for apartments, a change that Hall Talbert says will only add to the business district’s year-round vitality.
“We’re trying to get what community activities we can to enhance the existing base that is down here,” she said. “What makes a downtown are several components, not just retailers and restaurants.
“Most downtowns will be successful and thrive because they are one great big gathering place,” she said.
A self-professed “policy geek” who was a varsity debater in high school and loves “administrative stuff,” Hall Talbert earned a degree in 1991 in political science at Michigan State University. She interned at the state Capitol and spent a year at the University of London.
Hall Talbert spent the early part of her career working for advertising firms in Detroit, where her family moved when she was five years old.
Seeking a change and wanting to working in the nonprofit sector, she moved back to the west side of the state in 1993 when she went to work as member and marketing director for the Michigan Trails Girl Scout Council in Grand Rapids.
When she saw an ad in the newspaper for the Grand Haven position, Hall Talbert applied, seeing the position as the right match for both her professional and personal interests. Also piquing her interest in the position was her familiarity with the Grand Haven area, where her family spent summer vacations for years.