by Kirby LindsayOn Thursday, December 9th, several Fremont retailers plan to donate a percentage of their sales receipts to charity – with most of them giving to the B.F. Day Elementary After School Tutoring program. Stephanie Hara, owner of Show Pony boutique and an organizer of this promotion, described the percentage given by each shop owners as voluntary (Hara will give 5%, as will Portage Bay Goods and Bitters Co., while Fremont Place Books has chosen to donate 10%.) For Hara, the important thing is that shoppers – including families of the B.F. Day students –realize that, “shopping on that night goes back to the school.”
Other Thursdays in December, plus the week leading up to Christmas, have been designated “Shop Thursdays,” when participating stores will offer special discounts, munchies (plus Turkish coffee, and chocolate, at Istanbul Imports, and both Bitters Co. and The Sweet Spot offer hot cider), live music and, most significantly, the opportunity to shop until at least 8p. Those stores that have kept longer hours for years know the benefits from this concession, as Shalene Lundgren, co-manager for Portage Bay, knows, “we see more customers from staying open later.”
From Humble Beginnings
Hara, who bought Show Pony a year ago, has agreed to serve on the Fremont Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors as a retail representative – and help put together collective promotions like this one.
Even before being elected, she walked around the neighborhood and visited with other retail owners and managers to find out what could benefit everyone. Before launching ‘Shop Thursdays’ and ‘Fremont Gives,’ she specifically sought out Becky Buford, owner of Les Amis, and recently acquired Lamb’s Ear Shoe Boutique, which Buford relocated in the former Tinihana’s space, next door to her other shop, Essenza. For Hara, Buford’s agreement to join the promotion meant, “It can be done.”
Hara will watch how the promotions are received. Yet, “this is only the first year,” she observed, and she would like to expand ‘Shop Thursdays’ next year. For this year, 33 stores agreed to stay open until 8p, but she also heard suggestions about adding a men’s night, live music, a gift wrapping fundraising station, etc. “Hopefully this is something to build on,” she said.
Grows A Strong Community
“I don’t think people realize there is so much to find in Fremont,” Hara explained. “You don’t have to go Downtown, or to the malls,” Hara wants shoppers to learn, “I still get people in here every day that say, ‘I didn’t know this store was here…’”
“It’s the right thing to do,” explained Henry Burton, owner of Fremont Place Books, about participating in ‘Fremont Gives.’ He frankly admitted his dependence on December receipts, “theoretically, it is what is supposed to catch me up for the year,” he explained, “but that hasn’t happened the last couple of years…” Yet, “I like B.F. Day,” he said, “and all the folks up there…at least, the ones I know.” If he is going to participate, he said, he prefers the donation over spending money on a collective advertising campaign. “It seems like a no brainer,” he declared.
For Sureyya Gokeri, co-owner of Istanbul Imports, joining ‘Shop Thursdays’ also seemed obvious - for different reasons. She agreed to participate, “…because Jessica [Vets of the Fremont Chamber] said we should, and I like Jessica.”
“Fremont is a tight community and a wonderful place to come shop, eat, spent time with friend and family,” explained Katie Carson, co-owner of Bitters. “We are supportive of one another, and the community, hence supportive too of the school within our neighborhood,” she expanded, by e-mail.
“We like the whole camaraderie of Fremont businesses sticking together,” Lundgren echoed. Community is built upon participation, and encouraging customers to shop local – among their neighbors. Ultimately, though, Lundgren identified the primary reason retailers join together, “we think we get more customers from doing these promotions.” Hopefully, she’s right.
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.