Conroy sees the park as a place for visitors to come if they need a day off from Disney or before they go to the larger park. And because Old Town can meet the needs of the whole family -- shopping for mom, classic cars for dad and rides for the kids -- it is successful. "We don't view Disney as a competitor in our business model," Conroy says. "Disney is an asset. If it wasn't for Disney we wouldn't have a customer base." "The more we hear about large parks opening, bigger parks that keep opening, that's good news for us," he adds. "We are simply positioned as an accessory option to those theme parks. Our theme park is an average four- to five-hour destination. It's not an all-day destination." The model
This may sound strangely familiar to consumers and small-business owners. Dr. Alex DeNoble, head of the Entrepreneurial Management Center at San Diego State University, compares the Old Town-Disney dynamic to that of a large "anchor" store in a shopping center: Large department or discount retailers typically bring customers to the center, from where they branch out to shop in smaller stores nearby. "For a company to get that big, they have to put systems and processes and policies and procedures in place to support their larger entity. And what that does in many ways is takes away from flexibility, because they have to appeal to a mass audience," DeNoble says, referring to companies as proportionately large as a Disney park. "So when you look at a smaller firm positioning itself geographically they certainly can't compete on price
When Old Town was conceived in the mid-'80s, the idea was to create a place nostalgic and reminiscent of 1950s and 1960s Americana. It was a great idea "because it represented a positive time in the country, with a strong community feel," Conroy says. "The concept that was built was able to sustain a very long period of identity, because it's a timeless identity." The park featured novel retail concepts and introduced the car cruise in which anyone owning a car built before 1972 was invited to participate. Today an average 250 to 300 cars take part weekly.
Still, it's a challenge to keep tourists -- and locals -- visiting while keeping up with the ever-changing and fast-paced theme park industry. Old Town faces the challenge of updating its relevancy while maintaining its nostalgic and timeless feel. Old Town is finalizing a deal to be fully acquired by Brothers Entertainment Management Group. The group has owned some amusement attractions at Old Town since 1999 and took over all of the amusement rides in 2010. Conroy, president of the park since November 2010, is charged with refreshing the theme park. "Old Town has been here for 25 years, but it also hasn't changed much in 25 years. It needs a fresh identity change ... which really incorporates resetting the scene of the '50s and '60s in a modern form. We need to re-establish the identity, but we need to re-establish it in in 2012," he says. Cosmetic updates will help, as should bringing in more of a "large theme park feel" to Old Town including rides, attractions and other events such as parades, Conroy says. But he acknowledges the need to keep a small-town feel. "If we think too big or try to reach for something too big we will lose what is the most important part of Old Town -- our history, nostalgia and community feel. We don't want to lose that," he says. "I think the most important thing going forward is
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