Stroll across Blue Springs’ Main Street and you might feel like you’ve stumbled into a picture book’s whimsical setting. Brightly colored signs advertise flowers, ice cream and handcrafted gifts, and folk music rings out from the speakers. Even on a weekday afternoon, cars fill the clustered parking spaces.

These small details signal a much larger transformation, one business owners and residents have banded together to achieve in the past seven years. In 2011, Blue Springs became part of the Missouri Main Street Connection and National Main Street Center, groups working to revitalize main streets across the state and the country.

Just this month, Blue Springs’ Main Street received recognition as a Main Street America affiliate, meaning it has met significant funding and organizational goals. For Pam Buck, the executive director of Blue Springs Downtown Alive!, this simply affirms what she knows and appreciates about her community.

“Our downtown is our heart and soul,” Buck said. “When you bring someone to Blue Springs for a tour, you’re not going to show them the strip mall. You’d show them the downtown character.”

This character has grown more vibrant as many businesses have left Missouri 7 and nestled into Main Street storefronts.

Eva Brackenbury, a writer and owner of Inklings’ Books and Coffee Shoppe, is among those who have relocated.

“I grew up in Blue Springs. I remember always going to the library when it was on Main Street,” Brackenbury recalled with a smile. “Just saying ‘Main Street’ makes you feel like you’re at home.”

Now, Brackenbury’s bustling store and cafe recaptures that homey feeling she remembers. Among the piles of books and walls of paintings at Inklings’, visitors talk about everything from religion to recipes. One woman stops in to buy a slice of cake she says tastes just like an old family classic. Another customer, this one a local artist, pops by to discuss selling his latest creations.

This familial setting can also be found at Brewer’s Sports Bar and Grill, where pictures of school sports teams hang on the walls.

Then, there’s Genevieve’s, a shop selling handmade gifts and home decorations. Located in a vintage house, the boutique smells of rich, natural soaps, sparkles with unique jewelry and has more culinary tools than the average grandmother’s kitchen.

Since moving from the highway, owner Pam Wheeler says she’s noticed a 25 percent uptick in business.

Yet despite this successful resurgence, Buck and Blue Springs Downtown Alive aren’t finished. Future projects include the construction of a gateway and the addition of a brewery called East Forty Brewing.

“I don’t think it will wane anytime soon,” Brackenbury says of development. “It’s really a community effort.”