Merchants participating in Indiana Borough’s Downtown Dollars initiative found the new program to be rather well-received — so much so that several businesses ran out of the coupon-like credits that were distributed to shoppers on Saturday.
Downtown Indiana Inc. started the Downtown Dollars program this year, timed to coincide with Small Business Saturday, when shoppers are encouraged to hit locally owned shops one day after the holiday hustle of Black Friday. The program offered 10 percent of a customer’s total purchase in Downtown Dollars. That means that anyone spending $100, for example, received $10 in Downtown Dollars.
While the credits could only be earned on Saturday, they can be used at participating stores and restaurants through Dec. 24. More than 20 businesses in Indiana offered Downtown Dollars.
“We were pretty busy today,” said Michael Boiano, owner of Michael B.’s Shoes.
Like other businesses participating in the program, Boiano’s is on Philadelphia Street in downtown Indiana.
There was “definitely a positive response” to the promotion, he said.
One customer, he said, had planned to come back to buy a pair of boots. Upon hearing that she could earn Downtown Dollars if she made the purchase on Saturday, she went ahead and bought them right away.
“She got $20 back, so she was happy as could be,” Boiano said.
From the sounds of it, he was happy, too, and looking forward to future such promotions.
“We’ll absolutely be involved in the future,” he said.
Those at Downtown Indiana may put Downtown Dollars into circulation again, according to Josh Rosenberger, Downtown Indiana Inc. president.
Downtown Indiana printed up 3,600 Downtown Dollars slips. Similar to an actual dollar on one side with participating businesses listed on the other, the dollars can be used as cash at the stores involved.
While Rosenberger couldn’t say late Saturday evening how many had been distributed to customers, he did say some businesses actually ran out.
Among them was his own store, The 700 Shop. He started with 400 and, by the end of the day, ran out.
“What I’ll be really excited about is if people come back and generate more dollars,” he said.
Customers were already spending the Downtown Dollars that Rosenberger and fellow merchants had put into circulation.
“I think they just like the idea that their dollars are going further,” he said.
Hastie Kinter, owner of Lucy Rae Gifts & More, also distributed all of her Downtown Dollars on a day that included a steady stream of customers.
“We haven’t had a minute we didn’t have somebody that was in the store,” said Kinter, who is treasurer of Indiana Printing and Publishing, which owns The Indiana Gazette.
She sees personalized attention and good service as reasons that shoppers took to the stores on Small Business Saturday instead of shopping at large stores or online.
“We provide things that other forms of shopping don’t provide,” she said, “and we have customers that see the value of that.”
Out shopping on Saturday at Gatti Pharmacy, Jill Kaszubowski, of Indiana, said she is already a regular downtown shopper, but was impressed with the efforts to promote Small Business Saturday.
She had already collected 18 Downtown Dollars.
“I think it’s a great idea,” she said of the program. “It seems like (local businesses) are really doing a big push this year.”
Kaszubowski also credited the sense of community as what brought her out on Small Business Saturday.
“It’s a great way to see your friends and shop,” she said.
Carole Skedel, of Brush Valley, who works as a buyer and merchandiser at Gatti, was impressed by the turnout.
She credited the efforts such as the Downtown Dollars program with bringing out customers, like the dozen or so that lined up at the pharmacy’s checkout counter the afternoon of Small Business Saturday.
“I thought it was very nice,” she said. “I just wish we had this many people every day.”