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At the table with SSA: Five ways community tables can add a local layer to your retail experience

Cultural attractions are an integral part of a local community. We’ve been around long before trends like experiential dining pop-ups, immersive digital art installations, and interactive historical reenactments. We’re the place where generations of family memories, first dates, and educational field trips are made, serving as timeless backdrops to life's most cherished moments.

And because we’re so layered in the local fabric, it can be challenging to continue thinking of new ways to be a space for the community especially as trends come and go, and technology continues to get ever faster.

Enter the community table. Far from reinventing the wheel, we’re suggesting you take it back to the fundamentals and use this simple concept to be the literal centerpiece for local gatherings and events in your community.

Here are five ways a community table can be an easy community-building, revenue-driving space to add to your retail experience.

A living DIY

One of the most obvious options for this community space is a place where visitors of all ages and interests can create interactive learning. A monthly or bi-weekly event calendar with activities that highlight the latest exhibits, seasonal crafts, and cultural education. For example,  terrarium making could align with nature-themed attractions or cookie decorating during the holiday season.

Books, music, art, oh my!

The community table can and should also be a stage for the literary and artistic voices in your community. Add to your event calendar some local authors for book signings/discussions (especially those who write about topics relevant to your attraction) which not only promote literary culture but also give visitors the chance to engage in meaningful conversations about topics that matter locally and globally.

You can also incorporate local musicians into the mix (literally!) with anything from intimate acoustic performances to educational talks about the region's musical history or genres.

Finally, consider a miniature ‘artist in residence’ where your community table becomes a mini art gallery. Host local artists for meet-and-greets, allowing them to showcase and sell their work. This could also include live painting sessions or art workshops, where visitors can watch art come to life and even participate in the creative process.

A third space for children

There’s a lot of cultural dialogue right now about third spaces for kids disappearing. With the after-effects of the pandemic as well as technological advancements, in-person options for kids aren’t as readily available as before which makes the community table at your attraction, an excellent option for kids to meet new friends in a welcome, safe space. 

Another excellent option to add to your community table event calendar is by collaborating with schools to create this space for kids. This can be anything from educational workshops or art contests or just a small space to play and draw and talk. 

Keep it local

Transform your community table into a lively hub that champions local artisans and producers. By organizing regular local maker and product markets, you not only entertain guests but also strengthen your community bond. This initiative turns the community table into a vibrant showcase of local talent, offering everything from handcrafted items to local products.

These events are more than activities; they're a commitment to uplifting the local economy and fostering a deeper connection with the community. They invite guests to discover unique, locally-sourced products, enriching their experience while supporting the artisans and small businesses that define the local landscape.

Embracing local engagement, the community table not only enhances the guest experience but also cements the cultural attraction's role as a community cornerstone. It's a celebration of local culture, economy, and the shared values that unite us, making every visit a testament to the power of community collaboration.

Bundle retail items with dining

At SSA, we champion the idea of multi-tasking. To be the best cultural attraction you can, you can’t focus on just one aspect of your business. You need to continue to find ways to integrate food, retail, and admissions into one cohesive guest experience. The table in your retail space is a blank canvas to do just that. 

There are endless innovative ways to do this. For example, packaging dining options with unique timely experiences at your community table, like pop-up dinners or local chef meet-and-greets. For special events, you could combine food with themed activities at the table (such as cookie decorating during the holidays, or a traditional dish from a certain time period), enhancing exhibit openings or seasonal celebrations. And finally- don’t forget your most loyal guests and create member-only table events that add an element of exclusivity and engagement to their membership.

Keep it simple

Sometimes, the best ideas are the most simple. The community table is a testament to this. It’s cost-effective, has endless applications, and serves as a symbol of what the cultural attraction represents in each community. An in-person space to gather, learn, meet new friends, and make life-long memories.