2017-07-15 / Front Page

Chambers helping local retailers survive

Chambers of Commerce in both Emporium and Coudersport are tackling the challenges of small-town retailers head-on. They’ve been pushing gift certificate programs that keep money in the local economy. Each also sponsors an artisan center to help talented local craft enthusiasts and artists market their creations. Melonie Moon of Full Moon Jewelry is the newest member of the co-op at the Potter County Artisan Center.Chambers of Commerce in both Emporium and Coudersport are tackling the challenges of small-town retailers head-on. They’ve been pushing gift certificate programs that keep money in the local economy. Each also sponsors an artisan center to help talented local craft enthusiasts and artists market their creations. Melonie Moon of Full Moon Jewelry is the newest member of the co-op at the Potter County Artisan Center.
Many small businesses are fighting to keep traffic flowing through their doors and money rolling through their registers. Community organizations in Coudersport and Emporium are stepping up their efforts to help.

Chambers of commerce in both towns are putting a renewed emphasis on local gift certificate programs. The “chamber bucks” can be purchased for $5.00 each and are accepted as cash at more than 60 participating retailers in the Coudersport area, and about three dozen in the Emporium area. A list of participating businesses, ranging from grocery stores and restaurants to downtown retailers, is available with each purchase of certificates. They can be given as gifts, as bonuses for employees, or as prizes for fundraisers.

The certificates are also popular among employers who want to reward their employees and encourage people to buy locally.

“The campaign has been very successful,” said Cameron County Chamber of Commerce director Tina Johns Solak. “Every certificate sold is money that gets pumped into the local community, and that benefits everyone.”

Financial experts have long said that money spent at locally owned stores “recycles” within a community up to six times. In contrast, money spent at chains goes largely to corporate coffers.

Another buy-local movement is the “Small Business Saturday,” which is observed in both Coudersport and Emporium. It’s an alternative to the manic “Black Friday” sales held on the day after Thanksgiving, emphasizing the importance of supporting local retailers during the holiday season.

Despite the success of these and other economic boosting initiatives, Johns Solak said most of the area’s small businesses need additional help.

“Our biggest competitor isn’t a big grocery chain, franchised restaurants, or even Walmart. It’s online shopping,” Johns Solak explained. “When people go a local chain store, it’s not ideal, but at least there’s some benefit with jobs and money staying in the community. Not a single penny comes back when people shop using their computers.”

For more information on how to support local businesses, contact the Coudersport Area Chamber of Commerce office on East 2nd Street at 274-8165, or the Cameron County Chamber of Commerce on East 4th Street at 486-4314.

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