Let’s face it: Great Barrington, we opened the door for them. You can’t really blame them. Times are tough. With two years of Downtown Redevelopment coming up, it’s time for the other towns to try and take our tourists.

What did you expect, GB? Did you think Lenox was going to fold its tourist tent? Did you expect Lee to walk away? Downtown Hartsville to throw in the towel?

It’s a fantastic opportunity. Two summers of excavation then re-paving, dump trucks, and cars stuck in traffic past the Fairgrounds to the south and Barrington Brewery to the north.

A chance to find another reason besides a fantastic bassoon solo to lure folks to the Land of Lenox. An opportunity for Lee to get them to American Eagle Outfitters at the Outlet Stores.

You open the door; the odds are someone’s going to bust through.

And it’s probably because the stakes are so high that Lenox is willing to throw $70,000 into the pot.

Nowadays it’s all about the pitch. The pros call it branding. Finding just the right words. The perfect phrase. To stop you in your tracks. To get you to American Eagle.

It seems like Lee is willing to stick with “Gateway to the Berkshires.” Personally, I’m not so sure that’s going to do the trick. Not with Lenox bringing in the Big City Boys.

That’s right, they decided to go Big Time. Couldn’t afford Madison Avenue but they’re committed enough to go off-off-Madison. Smidley, Crump & Crump are an all-purpose, one-stop shopping PR machine. They’ll brainstorm, pre-brand, brand, then post-brand. Plus fix your website.

Smidley wasn’t available but the daughter of one of the Crumps was. Abigail Starkfield-Crump spent several hours walking around town, had a cup of coffee, and it came to her: “Lennoxx: We’re More Than We Were; We’re More Than You Expect; And We’re More Than You Imagine.”

I was lucky enough to attend the meeting of the Lenox Branding Sub-Committee. Starkfield-Crump explained that the inconvenience and expense of re-painting some of the signs in town would quickly be forgotten as townspeople were adapting to, and profiting from, the expected increase in tourist traffic: “Our slogan highlights that Lenox, as a town, as a community, yes, as a people just wasn’t content to stand still. In today’s global economy, one “n” and one “x” isn’t going to cut it.

“If I can be frank,” she continued, “I think the decision to go faux colonial with your streets and sidewalks was a step backwards. There’s a reason you looked to us. You knew you wanted more. You knew you needed more. Well, if we at Smidley, Crump and Crump believe in anything, we believe in more!

“Now some people think the slogan is a mouthful and I’m not going to argue that point. In fact, that is the point! We’re giving you more. Remember, this is an all-purpose sell. You can sell Lennoxx in all kinds of ways. You can go with one, or the other, or all three. For example, “Lennoxx: We’re More Than We Were.” Can’t you just feel the magic? From the get-go, it’s got you feeling good about your choice. I mean don’t we all want more than we were? More than we got the last time. And really, isn’t more what we all want?”

Now I’m sure of you have heard the rumors that some Lenoxians, or should I say Lennoxxians, aren’t happy with the slogan. Some folks say they just don’t understand it. Others just feel more comfortable going back than forward. But Starkfield-Crump convinced me. So I just want to say, watch out Great Barrington, Lennoxx is out to get your visitors. And now they have more than they had before.

So don’t say you weren’t warned. Lately I’ve heard from friends of friends that Downtown Hartsville has it own Sub-Committee hard at work. They’ve been working several angles. Some old-timers want to stick with what’s worked so well for them in the past. And there’s no quarreling with success: “Hartsville: Where Fish Hatch.” Some of the young bucks, though, are ready for something new, something a little more spiffy. They’ve been test marketing “Hartsvillable” and if you’ve seen the bumper stickers at the Big Y parking lot and the lawn signs on lower Corashire Road, you know the slogan is already catching on.

So GB, there are threats from the north and from the south, but do you know that even the folks from Alford might have a horse in this race. The other day at Fuel I overheard a certain well-respected second-homer with a track record as a former Mad Man. You probably know who I’m talking, but he was bragging over a gluten-free scone that with fifty grand for an “Alfordology” campaign, he could put Alford on the map.

The Berkshire Record, Thursday June 30, 2011 © Mickey Friedman 2011