As businesses around the country shift to online and to-go methods, downtown Auburn is no exception. Downtown merchants are feeling the sting as sales fall. The Auburn Downtown Merchants Association is helping to offset those losses with a slogan, a T-shirt and a hope for the future.
“I’m not going to sugarcoat anything, these local businesses need us now more than anything, and they are struggling,” said Downtown Coordinator Jessica Kohn.
Beginning Monday, the organization began selling T-shirts featuring the hashtag slogan “Keep Auburn Rolling,” which Kohn helped create in late March.
She and the UPS driver that services downtown Auburn created the hashtag after seeing the impact the COVID-19 pandemic was having on downtown businesses.
“We don’t work for any of these businesses, but we feel like we do,” Kohn said. “These businesses have become our family and friends.”
That’s why Kohn created the campaign, which has exploded online as businesses throughout Auburn use the hashtag and T-shirt sales grow.
Part of the campaign is a weekly giveaway. Simply post a photo on social media of you supporting a local business and use the hashtag #KeepAuburnRolling. Each week, the Downtown Merchants Association will choose one winner for a $100 gift card to a downtown business of their choice.
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These gift cards are another way the Merchants Association is supporting the downtown businesses, as they use funds they raised at their downtown events to purchase the gift cards.
As for the T-shirts, the association is selling them on their website and through downtown businesses. Shirts cost $20, with $13 going to the downtown business of your choosing. Shirts are being printed at the downtown business Stamp.
“This is our initiative, our way of supporting our local merchants,” Kohn said. “A lot of them have had to close their doors. A lot of them have had to change the way they way they conduct their daily operations. With that being said, a lot of them are not seeing the profits they should be seeing this time of year.”
Kohn has spoken with a lot of downtown retailers and restaurateurs. They all say that this is just another thing they need to overcome, Kohn said.
There was not much time to prepare for the crisis. One week, businesses were operating like normal. The next week, many had closed their doors to customers and were beginning to operate in ways they had never imagined.
“Just because a retailer has a website doesn’t mean that it’s their sole income, because it’s not,” Kohn said. “A lot of these websites are just kind of there as an option for their customers. It’s not their main source for their customers.”
The businesses and the Merchants Association understand that this is a difficult time for everyone. Kohn and the businesses are asking for anyone that is financially able to support the downtown businesses.
This could include buying food or products for a business. If you don’t think you need anything right now but still want to support a business, consider buying a gift card, Kohn said.
“If you don’t support these local businesses now, then your local businesses might not be open for you when all this returns to normal,” Kohn said. “I hate to say it like that, but I think that’s the truth.”
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