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Gloucester Main Street earns national revitalization award

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The Main Street Preservation Trust in Gloucester Village is one of six winners of the Main Street Forward Awards, which recognize communities that have shown exemplary recovery and resilience efforts amid the multiple crises of 2020.

Selected from 68 total submissions by a national jury of economic development experts, the Main Street Preservation Trust (MSPT) is being honored for its Downtown Dollars program, which raised nearly $150,000 in gift card sales to local businesses and benefited Gloucester healthcare workers.

“Gloucester Village has not seen one single business shutter due to COVID-19, and it’s a direct result of the Downtown Dollars program,” said Main Street America’s President and CEO Patrice Frey. “Not only was the e-gift card program a big success in Gloucester, but it also offers a local economic stimulus model for other commercial districts around the country.”

Downtown Dollars came to life when MSPT partnered with two Gloucester residents who wanted to help their fellow business owners. Dr. Ron Haggerty, who owns a medical practice on Main Street, and his wife, Kacki Haggerty, a nurse practitioner who runs a Main Street med spa, approached MSPT to ask what they could do to alleviate the issues local businesses were struggling with.

Executive Director Jenny Crittenden invited them to collaborate on a project she had already started: a custom-built e-commerce platform that allows shoppers to buy vouchers for all retail, restaurant, and personal service businesses on Main Street.

Crittenden planned to launch the program with a 30% discount to buyers—and the Haggertys stepped up to not only help fund that discount with a $5,000 donation, but also to purchase $14,000 in gift vouchers to be donated to the staff of nearby Riverside Walter Reed Hospital, where Kacki Haggerty also works as a nurse practitioner.

MSPT garnered another $10,000 in grant funding from Virginia Main Street as part of the Small Business Support Relief & Recovery Initiative, and an anonymous donor was inspired to give an additional $14,000 toward gift card purchases. Ultimately, MSPT was able to deliver gift cards to more than 400 healthcare workers at Riverside.

In the first 12 days after the e-gift card platform went live to the public, shoppers purchased another $60,000 in gift cards. While the cards were sold at a 30% discount, MSPT made up the difference in funding, so that the total value to local businesses was nearly $100,000.

Overwhelmed by this initial response, MSPT turned the gift card platform back on for Election Day and sold more than $45,000 in gift cards within seven hours.

“We are so proud that this project positively impacted so many people in our community and proved to be a powerful economic tool, from the business owners on Main Street and the healthcare workers at Riverside Walter Reed Hospital to the general community,” said Crittenden.  “To see the initial support by Dr. Ron & Kacki Haggerty and our anonymous donor that matched funding, as well as the overwhelming support by our community, it has been nothing short of amazing.”

While it was built as a response to COVID-19, the gift card portal is ready to use at any time in the future. It can be run with or without a discount to buyers, giving MSPT the flexibility to continue leveraging the platform in the future, regardless of economic circumstances. Built by Tech Ark of Norfolk, the portal was also designed to be replicated and branded by other downtowns across the country.

“While Downtown Dollars generated an immediate impact to Main Street businesses, it’s also a sustainable tool for driving long-term economic growth,” said Joy Rumley, Program Manager of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. “For the many businesses that do not have an e-commerce component, this marketplace offers them online representation and builds brand loyalty for Main Street.”


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