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'Shop Local' Wednesday in South End

Posted by Roy Greene  October 24, 2012 12:29 PM

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(Photo by Justine Borst)

The South End "Shop Local" effort began in July".

It was a quiet Wednesday night in September at Amanda Accardi’s South End frame shop, Around the Corner. A special “Shop Local Night” that was supposed to draw customers with discounts and special promotions had come up short. Though Accardi was offering a $50 gift card to anyone who placed an order that night, by 6 p.m. she only had one customer come through the door.

Still, she insisted she’s not discouraged, and considers herself lucky.

“We’re in a neighborhood that’s thriving,” said Accardi, 28. “New businesses are opening every day and surviving.”

That said, Nicole Vale, who opened her baby boutique on Washington Street, Coco Baby, a year ago, started the “Shop Local” nights in July in the hope of giving her neighbors a boost. The next one is today from 3 to 7 p.m.

Vale started by e-mailing other shop owners to see if they might join her in promoting the neighborhood. The “Shop Local” idea is based on The 3/50 Project, a pro-local initiative that began in Minneapolis, Minn. The concept is that if a neighborhood’s residents spend $50 combined each month at three independently-owned local businesses, they can boost the local economy.

“When you shop local you may not find exactly what you want, but you feel good about it,” said Vale, 38.

The first Shop Local Night, “made more of a pop,” she said. “It was the first one.”

Now, three months in, things have slowed. But Vale hopes a little extra planning and the timing of the October event, a week before Halloween, will help.

Although there’s no set Halloween theme for the event, Vale says Coco Baby will offer 10 percent off all Halloween merchandise. She’s also handed out packets to each participating store, which include balloons, flyers, and a tip sheet on how to run a successful “Shop Local Night.”

“We’re forcing the agenda, forcing the conversation,” said Vale.

Tim Libby, president of the South End Business Alliance, says he doesn’t expect the idea to take off after just a few attempts, but hopes that it gradually will encourage people to shop in the South End more often.

“This is basically our chance to say ‘This is who we are, this is what we have available to you,’” Libby said. “There’s not as high of a turnover as Newbury Street for retail. A lot of businesses have really taken off.”

More than 20 businesses already are participating in the “Shop Local Night,” from Gifted on Dartmouth Street to Formaggio Kitchen on Shawmut Avenue to M. Flynn Accessories on Waltham Street.

At the Polka Dog Bakery, another participant, assistant manager Rachel Schlow said customers were excited about the concept.

“When I tell them they can get a discount on our products, they immediately buy more stuff,” said Schlow, 24.

She said one dog owner who stopped in to buy a bag of dog treats, ended up buying three when she learned there was a promotion.

But Vale says the event goes beyond just giving customers a discount. Her goal is to create a brand for the South End.

“The shops are very spread out,” she said. “‘Shop Local’ is about joining the stores together and showcasing what they have to offer.”

Still, she added, “Right now each store is catering to its own clients. There needs to be more collaboration.”

Perhaps, Vale says, this Wednesday will be another step in that direction.

The story is part of a partnership between Emerson and the Globe.

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