Chances are shoppers milling about in various North Branch businesses have seen “Buy Local” logos in the windows of those shops.
That phrase is straightforward enough, but what shoppers might not realize is there’s been a concerted effort by the North Branch Area Chamber of Commerce and local businesses to make Buy Local more than just a phrase.
“It just started out as an idea to encourage people to buy in town,” chamber member and President of A & C Automotive Andy Schoeberl said.
Kris Greene, an administrative assistant at the chamber, said Buy Local started in 2009, and now there’s nine North Branch business leaders who comprise the Buy Local Committee.
Initially, the committee focused on offering coupons to encourage shoppers to check locally first before driving to the metro or going online to look for goods.
“We had been offering them at businesses like County Market, Shopko, in pizza boxes, the water and light bill and break rooms,” Greene said.
But just recently, the focus of the committee has changed.
“We’re really trying this year to refocus and pull away from the coupon idea and focus on getting the word out … getting the community to think about the local businesses first and check around,” Greene said. “And then if we don’t have it, then go somewhere else.”
Jennifer Neumann, chamber vice president and owner of Prism Design and Embroidery, said the upcoming Community Connections Expo at North Branch Area High School March 23 is a good chance to meet members of the Buy Local Committee, and also participate in Buy Local bingo.
During the bingo, visitors to the expo have the chance to go around and meet area business owners. Those owners or their employees then mark off their businesses on the attendees’ bingo sheets.
Once a bingo is completed, a visitor may submit that sheet to be entered in a drawing for a goodie basket from the chamber.
“The whole idea was to get them talking to the businesses, because they may not realize who is in town,” Neumann said.
The committee has an array of ideas its members are thinking of implementing over the next year.
One idea, Neumann said, is sponsoring a free Buy Local lunch before the Midsummer Parade.
Another would be getting involved with “Shop Hop.”
Consignment shops in town formulated that idea last year.
People who visited the consignment shops Dec. 7 found coupons, refreshments and more at the five participating consignment and repurposed stores.
Customers could also pick up a punch card at any of the stores.
Shopping at all the stores and getting the cards punched entered them in a drawing for $75 Visa gift cards.
Greene also mentioned organizing a “Business Saturday” right after Black Friday to showcase the businesses in town.
The committee would encourage businesses that aren’t normally open Saturdays to set up shop that day so customers can see, and hopefully buy, their wares.
“I think we’ve got a lot more coming,” Greene said. “I believe the focus and the intent of Buy Local will be changing and growing.”