Smitty’s Notes celebrates 20 years

Smitty’s Notes celebrates 20 years
December 07
08:00 2017

While The Chronicle prides itself on being the city’s “oldest and most respected community newspaper,” when the people of Winston-Salem want to know about social events and what’s going on in the area, many rely on another homegrown publication and news source: Smitty’s Notes.

Since 1997, Smitty’s Notes, a website and monthly newsletter that prides itself on providing information on local events, and a community calendar, has served the people of Winston-Salem.

What started out as a simple email to friends with a list of happenings in the city, on what seemed to be a dull Friday night, has grown to become one of the most powerful information sources in Forsyth County.

“We were just trying to find out what to do for the weekend, so we would email each other,” said city native Jeffrey Smith, founder of Smitty’s Notes. “Email was still fairly new at the time, so I did that for a couple of months, then I realized that my emails were being passed around to other people outside the group and it kind of just grew from there.”

Today, Smitty’s Notes has more than 16,000 subscribers, a lot more than the 12 who initially received Smith’s emails. Smith said the newsletter has served the community on  a “two fold basis.” On one hand, it talks about community events and shows people there are things to do in Winston-Salem, and on the other, it helps people stay informed on changes in the city.

Smith said the time in which he started the newsletter played a major role in its success as well.

“Things were happening so fast and we had a lot of new people coming into the community that didn’t know where to find stuff, so I think that’s why my newsletter has been successful, because of the timing. We had a lot of new people come in and it helped show them the way,” Smith said.

Along with his contributions to the community with his newsletter, over the years Smith still found time to serve on various boards geared toward uplifting the community as well. Over the past 20 years, Smith has worked with the Arts Council, Downtown Partnership, the ECHO Network and others.

In 2009, Smith stepped down from several boards because it was a lot of work on top of holding down a full-time job, and keeping the website up and running. Around that same time, Smith developed multiple sclerosis, an unpredictable disease that disables the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.

Although he had to scale back some of the things he was doing in the community, Smith continued to keep the community in the loop and Smitty’s Notes continued to grow. Along with the community calendar that made Smitty’s Notes famous, Smith added direct links to local restaurants, bars, clubs, and other “hot spots” around the city.

When discussing the growth of the city and some of the changes he has seen over the years, Smith said it is important that we accept change. He said, “You’re going to lose some businesses and some people as thing progress but you can learn to adapt to it. I think the businesses that have survived have adapted to those changes.”

With the growth in popularity of social media, Smith has had to adapt to change as well. He recently started the Smitty’s Notes e-community group on Facebook, which has more than 10,000 followers.

“I get at least 10 people a day who want to join that group. That alone shows where people are going to find out information,” continued Smith. “You have to find out what the trends are and what your target audience is interested in.”

Smith said he is always looking for ways to improve his newsletter. Last month he recently attended an internet summit in Raleigh. The event featured executives from big name companies like Amazon, Adobe and Netflix, just to name a few.

“I’m always looking for information to see if I’m on the right track. I like to stay abreast of what’s happening, so I probably attend an event like that once or twice a year,” Smith said.

As you would expect, over the years many organizations have recognized Smith for his contributions to the city and last weekend he added another to the list when he served as grand marshal during the 27th Annual Jaycees Holiday Parade.

Smith said, “I’m honored to be grand marshal. I saw a list of some of the people who are going to be riding in the parade and it feels good to be in good company,” smiled Smith. “It should be a lot of fun. That parade is a real tradition in this community.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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