Behind the Historic Downtown Sanford Brand

Behind the ‘Historic Downtown Sanford®’ Brand

Historic Downtown Sanford® Selected as the Official Marketing Partner of Sanford Main Street

In just three short years, Historic Downtown Sanford has become the ubiquitous label which captures all that the downtown corridor is.  Founder Will Henao through his agency Community Marketing Online has been able to execute a tourism brand campaign that has proved viable, visionary, and will continue to grow in the marketplace as the region’s top destination marketing network!   Community Marketing Online has been selected by Sanford Main Street to be the marketing partner to promote Historic Downtown Sanford, and select new initiatives and marketing campaigns will be funded by Do Orlando North Seminole County, the City of Sanford, and the City of Sanford Community Redevelopment Agency to promote & elevate Sanford as a destination.

The advertising and branding of local attractions is as old as time; the concept of “destination marketing” is certainly not a new one.  Word of mouth and promotion first drew investors to the “Celery City” at the turn of the 19th century, and like most all communities, Sanford has promoted itself in a myriad of ways since then.  Over the decades, as each individual business, event, and attraction has sought to draw the masses to their doors, advertisers and publications have existed to tell and share their stories.

In a modern American sense, branding, promotion, and tourism is not only one aspect of business, but also an integral part of community growth!  What good is it to have world-class restaurants, an iconic lakefront view, and amazing events if no one is aware?

Sanford, over the years, has been blessed with many passionate citizens and groups that have delivered these stories.  It is by standing on the shoulders of these predecessors that Community Marketing Online CEO Will Henao and his marketing vehicle “Historic Downtown Sanford®” have taken Sanford’s destination marketing efforts to a whole new level of effectiveness, contemporaneousness, and global reach.

Historic Downtown Sanford logo

Over the last several years, Historic Downtown Sanford, Florida has become very well known, a destination embraced by the young and old alike, frequented by both thrill seekers and by families, and a cultural destination seemingly always present on the lips and minds of those looking for a unique and interesting place to visit.  It has become synonymous with events, fun, and culinary delight with iconic pictures and always on-point messaging.  It’s the apex version of destination marketing.  That such a charge and call to action has been effectively implemented by a visionary who fell in love with Sanford, Florida and Seminole County is itself a most remarkable story that deserves its own telling.

Will Henao was revitalized in the summer of his 44th year, coming home to a place he had never been before.  As a web development and marketing guy from New Jersey who has run his boutique marketing agency for now over 26 years, Henao relocated his family to Central Florida in search of warmer weather and a beautiful place to live, work, and play.  Henao regularly began showing his vacationing friends the less-touristy and more authentic parts of Central Florida, thinking that perhaps the time was right to develop, brand, and promote his family’s favorite place to relax, catch a parade, frolic by the water, and dine – Sanford.  Henao had tripped over a brick lined street and tumbled head over heels into #Sanfording.  And he wanted to tell the world.

Today, the ‘Historic Downtown Sanford®’ brand fits the downtown corridor like a tailored suit; the branding has become ubiquitous.  In real estate ads, social media, advertisements, events, and even common conversation, the title “Historic Downtown Sanford” is freely used to identify Sanford’s downtown area which Henao began to capture and brand in 2017.  It at once describes a fun, family-friendly, event-filled, foodie/craft paradise with a distinct historic flair.  “As an independent marketing company,” said Henao, “I took the initiative to launch the ‘Historic Downtown Sanford®’ brand in the private sector.”  The results speak for themselves, as it is no exaggeration that the Historic Downtown Sanford® brand has captured millions of eyes to date, worldwide, in a variety of mediums.

Events in Downtown Sanford, Florida
Photo: Will Henao

Beyond the amazing (and daily) pictures of food, drink, and fun presented in impeccable form on social media, to date Historic Downtown Sanford® has done marketing events at both the micro and macro level.  From a large-scale perspective, it is nearly impossible to obtain a larger forum for Historic Downtown Sanford than Henao has delivered.  In 2018, Henao co-produced three episodes done on Seminole County and Historic Downtown Sanford on the nationally syndicated travel show “Raw Travel,” hosted by Robert Rose.

These episodes have aired in the US in 173 markets, put Historic Downtown Sanford, Florida in front of over 10-million people, with numbers that are still rising with re-airings.  At the micro-level, his continual work promoting local events, coming attractions, food trucks, art festivals, small businesses via social media and more culminated in the ‘Sanford Visitor’s Guide,’ both in hard copy and as a downloadable digital version at

‘Raw Travel’ host Robert Rose (left) with Henao (center) at the watch party at Buster’s Bistro for an episode co-produced by Henao titled ‘Let’s Go #Sanfording,” alongside event MC Daniel Lewis (left).

The ‘Visitors Guide’, now in it’s sixth iteration, is a triumphant display of #Sanfording, replete with all the information, food pics, and navigational assistance a visitor to Historic Downtown Sanford could ask for.  “I wanted to build something to uplift, promote, and market the wonderful business and world class offerings Sanford has, and sharing the brand is an extension of sharing my own deep affection for downtown,” said Henao.  By showcasing to the world everything Historic Downtown Sanford has to offer, all at once in large scale and at a personal level, Henao proved that setting the scene right and building a brand for the future does not have to wait for a local government body.  His private initiative has given Sanford’s downtown corridor a moniker that extends past the private sector and into ‘generality,’ used with such pervasiveness, that were Henao to stop his branding efforts the name and legacy of the “Historic Downtown Sanford®” brand would endure for years.  In that regard, Henao has achieved what many visionaries seek – a creation that outlives, and is bigger than, the individual.

Sanford Visitors Guide Spring 2021
Sanford Visitors Guide Spring 2021


In addition to all of the hyper-local marketing strategies Henao has implemented, his eyes have been set on promoting overnight stays in Sanford’s many Airbnb’s, as well as in numerous Seminole County hotels. “Having guests stay 2-3 nights and truly enjoying what the region has to offer gives a great impact to our local economy, and helps drive our continued growth ” said Henao. Several of Henao’s new marketing strategies currently being executed promote exactly this.

Weekend Getaways in Sanford


During the shutdown, Will Henao was the local driving force behind the Great American Takeout which helped local restaurants stay afloat while encouraging takeout and delivery as documented here by WESH2 News.

Great American Takeout Sanford Florida

In addition, he produced a Digital Food & Drink Guide to make it easier for both restaurants and their guests to connect during a tough time for everyone.

Sanford Florida Food & Drink Guide


Historic Downtown Sanford® has also taken on the role of marketing partner for many of Sanford’s major events, and Henao has been the main marketing strategist for all of the following:

• St Johns River Festival of the Arts (2021 record number of vendors & attendees)

• Pints n Paws Craft Beer Festival (Annual event has now donated over $400k to local pet rescues!)

• Hurricane Party Music Festival (2021 record/largest festival to date)

• Sanford Jingle Jam (Sanford’s largest event footprint, welcoming tens of thousands of visitors!)

• Sanford Mardi Gras (Annual fundraiser for Meals on Wheels)

• Small Business Saturday (Promoting local retailers and Shop Small initiatives)

• Sanford Food Truck Fiesta (Bigger & more popular than ever!)

• Wing City Sanford: Wing Mural Public Art Exhibition (Highly successful inaugural art display)

Wing City Sanford

• Christmas in July Shopping Event

• Orlando City Soccer Fans Celebration: Paint the City Purple (Partnership with major sport brand)

The website, Facebook page, and Instagram account have received millions of impressions, driving tourists and visitors into Sanford’s burgeoning food, drink, retail, and event scene.

Instagram Feed

These are some of the concepts Henao and Historic Downtown Sanford® have worked on or introduced:

• Official Historic Downtown Sanford Food & Drink Map (Creator and Designer – used by tourists & locals alike!)

Map of Historic Downtown Sanford Florida

• Loggerhead Cocktail Crawl (Co-creator and marketer)

Loggerhead Cocktail Crawl

• Director & Producer of the co-op marketing ads w/ The Orlando Weekly

Orlando Weekly Sanford Marketing Ads

• Co-Founder of Historic Downtown Sanford Tours & Experiences and was a co-founder of Sanford Golf Cart Rentals in 2019, promoting activities and things to do in downtown now part of a, a successful joint venture marketing vehicle

Sanford Golf Cart Rentals

• Editor and creative liaison for Growth Watch articles promoting forthcoming economic development projects to Historic Downtown Sanford, a valued tool used by public and private promoters of downtown, and those looking to invest.

• Owner of the Famous Tiny Houseboat Airbnb® and promoter of weekend stays at local Airbnb’s and hotels to cement Historic Downtown Sanford as a tourist destination

• Founding member of Film Sanford, an initiative to promote Sanford as a location for film and commercials, which is now a committee under Sanford Main Street

As incredible amount of activity as this has been, Henao is still energetically planning the future.  His forthcoming Sanford Food and Drink Magazine will at once be a guide and picture book leading the viewer into the culinary delights of Historic Downtown Sanford. Plus a new app will be debuting this year featuring our top restaurants, breweries, events and provide logistical assistance to visitors.

Sanford Food & Drink Magazine

In just three short years, Historic Downtown Sanford® has become the ubiquitous label which captures all that the downtown corridor is.  Henao’s agency Community Marketing Online has been able to execute a tourism brand campaign that has proved viable, visionary, and will continue to grow in the marketplace as the area’s top destination marketing network!

And, of course, Henao will be spearheading the marketing of downtown under a new agreement with Sanford Main Street and the City of Sanford.

Community Marketing Online has been selected by Sanford Main Street, a public-private partnership whose mission is to preserve and enhance the historic charm and integrity of our community, while encouraging local spending, tourism, and a sense of community, which will improve the local economy, to be the marketing partner to promote Historic Downtown Sanford! Select new initiatives and marketing campaigns will be funded by Do Orlando North Seminole County, the City of Sanford, and the City of Sanford Community Redevelopment Agency, the partnership’s main goal is to promote and elevate Historic Downtown Sanford as an amazing tourist destination.

On the selection of Community Marketing Online and Henao to be the marketing partner for Sanford Main Street, Main Street President Christina Hollerbach stated that “Sanford Main Street had a unique opportunity when reestablishing our organization.  Our board felt it was vital to partner with Historic Downtown Sanford® as the tourism and promotions arm of The Main Street Approach Four Point Initiative.  We are lucky that a well-established tourism brand existed in our community and we can combine efforts to amplify our shared missions.”

Have you heard of Historic Downtown Sanford?  Chances are you have.  Let’s go #Sanfording!

Daniel R. Lewis

Daniel R. Lewis is an Attorney, Realtor, and entrepreneur who is one of Sanford’s most prominent business leaders. Attorney Lewis has served on the board of directors for the Sanford Chamber of Commerce, as a Commissioner on the City of Sanford Planning and Zoning board, runs a large non-profit entity, and has otherwise been involved in countless large-scale growth projects in Sanford, Florida. He is a two-tour United States Air Force veteran who served his nation in time of war, is heavily involved in a variety of local civic, community, and charitable functions, and owns the most recognized legal practice in Sanford.