Merchants groups are cropping up all over the East Bay. The art of promoting a town or region while developing and creating festive, informative and diverse activities and events for individuals to participate in is not a task these groups take lightly. Because of their proactive efforts, local merchants groups infuse the area with a sense of vibrancy and community, and they work hard to bring in consumers and explorers to discover and appreciate their respective areas. From the Warren Walkabout and Fusion Fest, to the Bristol Halloween Stroll in October, to upcoming assorted holiday events in Tiverton and the holiday Passport to Savings in Barrington, these merchant’s groups are constantly coming up with plans to bring in business and to create pleasurable community events.
Katie Dickson of the Discover Warren group notes the evolution of these groups. “Discover Warren has existed in many different forms, most recently as a community group that planned events and such,” she notes. “But when I got to town all it really did was sponsor the Warren Walkabout. So a group of restaurant owners and shopkeepers started meeting – over wine and beers, of course – to brainstorm ideas, and we decided to become a real merchant’s advocacy group. Our feeling is that a strong local economy will improve the quality of life for all residents, not just business owners. We hired a wonderful graphic designer to create a logo, branding and website for us, which launched this summer. DiscoverWarren.com is fun and funky and really captures the spirit of the town.”
Alayne White, owner of Alayne White Spa, self-proclaimed Spa Goddess and President of the Downtown Bristol Merchant’s Association, puts it this way: “The DBMA mission is simply to drive business into Bristol, but more importantly, we are a network of independent businesses who work together to get more people – locals, students, RWU faculty and tourists – to visit our great and quaint authentic town.”
While the groups in Bristol and Warren are both actively involved in advocating for themselves, Tiverton isn’t far behind. Kristin Silveria, the new president of the Tiverton Four Corners Merchant’s Group, explains, “The mission statement of this organization is to foster and promote its members and their businesses year-round through various marketing endeavors and special events; to enhance the community through sponsored family activities, aesthetic improvements to the historic Tiverton Four Corners area and increased awareness of the area’s many unique benefits; and to promote visual and performing arts and to explore and encourage greater participation in the arts throughout the community.”
Promotional efforts like the Tiverton Four Corners Holiday Raffle are designed to let businesses throughout the town share in the benefits. Shoppers can pick up a card to participate, and get it stamped when they visit any participating merchants (no purchase necessary). After they collect seven stamps, they can turn in the card for the chance to win gifts donated by various members. Cathi Fournier of Milk & Honey Bazaar, one of the participating businesses, explains, “We are hoping people will come check out the shops at Four Corners and come back for the holiday season.”
Creating these sorts of incentives encourages people to visit the towns numerous times, and in this manner visitors are able to better get to know the area, find their favorite spots and develop a habit of shopping and engaging in these communities. Merchants banded together in Barrington earlier this year to form the Barrington Business Association for just that purpose.
This kind of interaction and collaboration keeps everyone inspired and vibrant. “The greatest point of the DBMA is that businesses will get out of it what they put into it by attending our monthly meetings,” continues White.