The Kent County section of the Harriet Tubman Byway formally kicked off Friday in the towns of Camden and Wyoming with hopes the historical preservation program that will also booster nearby small businesses.
Running along different highways in Delaware like Routes 13 and 52, the historic road traces the path Harriet Tubman took to bring escaped slaves to freedom.
The byway comes into Delaware from Maryland at Sandtown, travels through Kent County northward, through New Castle County and then out into Pennsylvania through Route 52 in the Centerville area," said Jennifer Pilcher from state office of the Small Business Administration. Her organization is working to marry a historical preservation effort with bringing more customers into small shops along the way.
She says Maryland has had signs marking its part of the byway for several years, and it was the right time for Delaware to follow suit.
The First State's project formally began in March in Wilmington’s Southbridge neighborhood, a historically black area where fugitive slaves knew they were almost to freedom.
Pitcher says the byway is already well traveled by family reunion groups and bike tours. The ultimate goal is to draw in those visitors and turn their attention away from the chain restaurants where they may normally stop.
"And they can say, 'Ok. This mom and pop offers regional cuisine. They’re offering scrapple, they’re offering slippery dumplings. They’re offering local produce, and we’d rather go to lunch there.'”
Visitors will be able to find out about the shops because of an app called Tagwhat which will mark participating businesses as part of the byway. Signs marking the historic route were unveiled Friday, and participating stores will also have signs in their windows.
The initiative will include special coupons - called Byway bucks - that visitors can use at participating businesses. That could mean a free guitar lesson or 10% off an ice cream cone.
Those shops include Knight’s Fine Jewelry, Yarn and Bone Pet Supply Company and Delaware Bay Trading Company and General Lockwood’s Coffee House, among others.