From retailers to restaurateurs, efforts are well underway in the six-county Quad Cities region to get customers through the doors and keep dollars in the QC. The outreach to shoppers is boosted by events such as Holiday Hops (downtown Moline got the ball rolling with its Nov. 11 event), Christmas walks and scavenger hunts as […]
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From retailers to restaurateurs, efforts are well underway in the six-county Quad Cities region to get customers through the doors and keep dollars in the QC. The outreach to shoppers is boosted by events such as Holiday Hops (downtown Moline got the ball rolling with its Nov. 11 event), Christmas walks and scavenger hunts as well as social media messages, and the ongoing “Keep It QC” campaign from the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce. During the week before Thanksgiving, chamber staff members were out delivering “Keep It QC” signs to more than 200 locations, including businesses that requested them as well as new chamber members who joined in the past year, said Jennifer Verscha, marketing director for the Quad Cities Chamber. “Keep It QC is a movement about the power of supporting local businesses,” she said. The investment in local business, “in turn, helps with our tax base, with roads and with schools.” Much attention nationally is paid to shopping at local stores on the Saturday after Thanksgiving – what now commonly is known as Small Business Saturday. American Express, which founded the event, reported that spending among U.S. consumers who shopped at independent retailers and restaurants on that day last year hit a record high with an estimated $23.3 billion. The 2022 Deloitte Holiday Survey notes that “Despite economic concerns, consumers are finding ways to make the holidays festive this holiday shopping season. While they may be spending the same amount overall, how they are spending is changing. Non-gift purchases are taking a back seat as shoppers prioritize social experiences and buying gifts for others.” Quad Cities businesses began drawing in customers weeks ago with holiday specials and incentives to shop early. A new promotion called “Deck the Downtowns” launched on Friday, Nov. 18, with hopes of bringing customers to eat, shop and “be merry” in downtown Bettendorf, Davenport and Rock Island by enticing them to hunt for ornaments unique to each city in dozens of establishments. Bettendorf’s ornament is a miniature painting of the new Interstate 74 bridge produced by the Downtown Bettendorf Business Women. Davenport’s is a holiday pickle ornament from the German American Heritage Center, and Rock Island is offering a holiday train inscribed with RI, created by Crawford Co. and painted by Jackson Autobody & Custom Paint. Ryan Jantzi, executive director of the Downtown Bettendorf Organization (DBO), promises he’ll be giving plenty of clues on the DBO’s Facebook page as to where the ornaments are hidden. “They’ll be hidden in plain sight,” he said. But the fun has a more serious intent – getting shoppers to exit the I-74 bridge and patronize shops and restaurants in downtown Bettendorf. “The bridge was once a hindrance,” he said. “That’s no longer the case.” Both Mr. Jantzi and Jack Cullen, director, Downtown Rock Island, believe shoppers will be enticed to visit all the downtowns to participate. Both men serve in their downtown roles as chamber employees. “It’s an opportunity to connect the dots in the community,” Mr. Cullen said. Owners of small businesses “all have a story to share. They are keeping their dollars local, and paying it forward by keeping their investment in the community.” He noted that 50% of the Rock Island businesses participating in the “Deck the Downtowns” promotion are minority- or women-owned. “This is another opportunity to celebrate those businesses and get more people through their doors,” he said. Downtown LeClaire, which has seen continued growth in its retail and entertainment businesses, has added new events to its annual Christmas in LeClaire weekend scheduled for Friday-Sunday, Dec. 2-4. The lighting of the LeClaire Christmas tree on the Levee will be Friday at 6 p.m. and a Light Up LeClaire Christmas Parade will kick off at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, traveling down Wisconsin Street from 15th to 3rd streets. While the COVID-19 pandemic put a sharp focus on online shopping, business leaders note that those dollars can stay local, too, as a growing number of QC small businesses have thriving ecommerce operations. Isabel Bloom, whose local roots run deep, is one of those businesses. Co-owner and sculptor Donna Young said orders are shipped to every state. Florida and Arizona are popular destinations for the distinctive Isabel Bloom sculptures, following the many Iowans who winter in those states. But Ms. Young said there’s a special experience for customers in walking into the company’s showroom at 736 Federal St., Suite 2100, Davenport. “Because we are a handcrafted product and unique, people get a much better understanding of the value of their design when they look through our windows and watch the artists hand paint the sculptures one at a time,” she said. “We want our customers to understand what’s behind each Isabel Bloom.” The business plans special sales incentives for both in-person and online shopping in the days after Thanksgiving. “Customers really can make a difference with their dollars,” she said. And as a consumer herself, Ms. Young noted that she tries to do a lot of small business shopping on the weekends. “I go to places that I want to see stay here,” she said. Connection to community is crucial for Tamara Felden, who offers a personalized shopping experience for customers to her store The Artsy Bookworm, at 1319 30th St., Rock Island. Her selection of books – with many by African American and Native American authors -- sustainable products, local artwork and unique children’s toys has a loyal following which she hopes to grow during her second holiday season in the neighborhood shopping district. “We have the kinds of gifts you can’t find elsewhere,” said Ms. Felden, a part-time professor in the honors program at nearby Augustana College. And a mission statement, posted as customers enter the store, includes this: “To carry merchandise that reflects our customers’ desire to make positive contributions to our community, our environment and our local economy.”