SILVERTON - Think for a minute about your three favorite local businesses and what our community would be like without them.
Can you imagine Silverton without Stone Buddha, Lunaria or the Palace Theatre? Would you be upset if you couldn't shop at The Clothes Garden, Silverton Flower Shop or the Black Lily?
What if you couldn't get your hair cut at your favorite hair stylist, eat at your preferred restaurant or visit your gym?
While most of us are familiar with the catchphrase "shop local," a new national campaign called the 3/50 Project, introduced to Silverton business owners in January, aims to put into sharper focus the benefits of keeping a healthy portion of your dollars in the local area.
The 3/50 Project emphasizes a few key statistics, including the following: "If half the employed population spent $50 each month in locally-owned stores, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue" (U.S. Dept. of Labor statistics, Feb. 6, 2009). That's the "50" part of the project title.
The "3" in the name refers to a key question the project marketing poses: "What three local stores would you miss if they disappeared?"
All local retail businesses and restaurants are included in the contest as long as they are independent not franchises. In addition to retailers, the project includes dry cleaners, auto repair shops, dentists, doctors, dance studios, photographers, landscapers and more.
A sizeable group of Silverton shop owners gathered at Lisa's on Water Street restaurant recently to hear the pitch for involvement made by Stacy Palmer, director of the Silverton Chamber of Commerce. Palmer said the chamber is building on the national 3/50 effort with its own ad campaign and a monthly drawing to drive home the benefits of supporting local businesses.
"Starting in February, the Silverton Chamber of Commerce is going to run a contest where the customers bring in three receipts from local stores that total more than $50 and they'll be entered in a drawing for a $50 gift certificate that they can use at Chamber-member businesses."
They will also receive a button to wear that says, "I did my 3/50, how about you?" which Palmer says is a great visual to support the campaign. "It's no cost and it's a simple, easy way to help some of our struggling local businesses," Palmer added. "We're hoping it catches on and creates that mindset to at least think about shopping here first."
There's no doubt that businesses in town could use a few more customers, especially in the post-holiday winter months before tourists and daytrippers show up in the spring and summer. Palmer noted that a recent study showed 14 Silverton businesses closed in 2009, while 11 were started.
"Losing any business is bad, but we're fortunate not to have lost more," said Palmer.
The creativity and customer focus of Silverton's businesses is likely a major reason the town hasn't lost more retail to the recession. "People shouldn't have to leave town to find something fun and interesting. This town is chock-full of great stuff to buy," said Monte Fenney, Green Store owner.
Pam Altree, co-owner of The Clothes Garden, noted that people comment to her all the time that they were going to go into Salem for something but then stopped in town and found what they needed, saving time and gas.
Pomegranate owner Suzie Couraud was enthusiastic about the chamber's new effort. "I really feel that nationally people are starting to realize how important it is to support your own community," she said. "I am telling all of my customers what they need to do to enter the drawing. The more we can do to educate our community about how important it is to support your local economy, the better it'll be for all of us."
Palmer said people may turn in their receipts starting Feb. 1 at the chamber office at 426 S. Water St. in the historic train depot. Chamber office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. In the event folks can't stop by during those hours, Palmer advises putting a name on the receipts, stapling them together and dropping them through the mail slot on the door.
"Just think of three businesses you wouldn't want to see go out of business and that's a place to start your $50 spending," said Palmer. "There is no reason not to participate!"