WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WIFR) – A group of area business owners brainstorm ways to help out those stores that struggled to profit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Small business owners know it will take time to get back to restore business loss, but they say they are OK with crawling back to pre-pandemic sales levels one event at a time.
“Any events that Rockford can offer and all businesses can cooperate on? You know, it’s just a win-win for everyone,” says Possessions Owner Joan Welsh.
18 shops in Rockford and Loves Park opened their doors for the annual Boutique Crawl, an event with two goals in mind: kick off the spring shopping season and encourage shoppers to buy local.
“People in our community and even outside the community come in and want to know where the local stores are,” says Welsh.
Many of them got customers who didn’t know the Boutique Crawl was a thing, including at Possessions.
“I haven’t been in here to where I saw absolutely nothing that I wanted,” says shopper Wanda Purifoy.
“We just happened to stumble into a shop and they’re like, oh, are you with the boutique crawl? And we’re like, oh, now we are,” says shopper Carley Berndt.
Berndt comes to the Stateline from Monroe, Wisconsin. She’s spent a large sum of money at a couple of stores, but it’s a price she’s willing to pay.
“You’re helping someone pay rent and pay their bills.” You’re helping an actual individual, not some big corporation which I am fully behind,” Berndt says.
“Every year it seems to grow because people are putting it on their calendar or asking about it,” says Welsh.
While most of the shops are competitors, they say it’s the collaboration that helps each of them find success.
“We love to support other artists or makers that are just starting, maybe don’t have a storage space yet,” says Lallagag Boutique Owner Kim Knutson. “We’ve got several new customers that have never been in before, having a ball getting their punch cards out and they are looking for places to go have lunch, have coffee in between, so they are supporting other local businesses in the area as well.”
Even if shoppers didn’t get a chance to stop in to all of these stores, owners say this crawl gives shoppers a list of places they can visit in the future.
“Now I have some shops I can recommend to some of my friends throughout the rest of the year,” says Berndt.
Shoppers got a punch card from each of the participating shops. If they bought something from at least five stores, they were entered to win a gift card from each of the participating shops.
Given the traffic in each of their shops, some owners talk about hosting another crawl in the future… Or make this a more frequent event.
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