GRESHAM, Ore. - Businesses big and small are working hard to keep afloat these days and out in Gresham, they're using little trinkets to draw some customers their way.
Around 70 Gresham businesses are participating in a charm bracelet program that is starting to gain some momentum. It was launched earlier this year and is modeled after similar programs that other cities have done here in Oregon, and nationally.
The idea is simple - folks buy a bracelet and then visit local businesses to collect charms to go with it. Not only does it give people a reason to stop by places they might not normally go to or even know about, but hopefully they'll like what they see and go back.
And it's also helping spread the word about TryLocalFirst, a committee overseen by the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce that is made up of a coalition of East County organizations. Their main goal is to get folks to buy from within their own community and the charm bracelet program has proven to be a great way to do that.
"TryLocalFirst is a really important tool for economic development" said Alison Hart, CEO of the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce. "When people are investing locally, more money circulates in the local economy."
Although the charm bracelet program did get off to a bit of a slow start, once folks realized how fun it was, it started taking off.
"As soon as we had consumers start to get excited about the program - and the companies and businesses actually saw the brochure and charms in hand - it made it real," said Lynn Snodgrass, owner of Drake's 7 Dees. "And then there was a flurry of new people that were like 'oh, I want to be a part of that.' "
Snodgrass has been coordinating the program and told us she's really enjoyed being part of a positive project like this.
How can I get a bracelet?
You can buy a bracelet for $5 at one of the following locations:
You'll get a brochure with a list of participating businesses and then you can start collecting your charms (they cost $2 each). The brochure is also available online if you want to check it out ahead of time:
For those who have already bought many (or all) of the charms these past few months, there will be some new ones out there. About two dozen more businesses are joining in this time around.
"The consumers are happy, the businesses are happy - it's been a buzz," she said. "When people come in to look for the charms, they're really excited about the whole program. They're with their grandkids or they're with their friends or their daughters or whatever. That part has been really fun."
And people in East County are discovering places they didn't know about.
"I've heard some wonderful stories from other businesses that wouldn't normally have had that customer," Snodgrass said. "But because they came in to get a particular charm, now they realize what that business does."
The bookstore at Mount Hood Community College is one example.
"We started thinking, you know the college should have a charm," said Bess Wills, Vice President/General Manager of Gresham Ford, who has also been working on the program. "And then we were thinking about the bookstore. And so the bookstore got a charm. And the thing I think is exciting about that is that we were able to point out that there is a bookstore in our community - it's just not where you normally think."
I own a business - how can I get in on this?
The charm bracelet program is actually on its second run right now and there is a waiting list for those who want to get in on the third round, which will be coming up this fall during the holidays. You can get in touch with the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce to find out more and to get your name on the list.
Hart told us the chamber has gotten positive feedback about the program. We also stopped by a few of the businesses that are participating to get an idea of how it's been going for them.
"We're actually sold out on our charms, so we're in the process of reordering them," said Kerry Parmenter, owner of a boutique called Elegantly Funky.
"I missed the first one and I heard a lot of good feedback so I decided the second time to join in and I love it," said Sergey Choglo, owner of Lollipop Rooster, a small candy shop. "It really works good."
"In the beginning it was a race for the charms so we went through our first batch real quick," said Debbie Phillips, owner of Bella Cupcake.
"I think it's a really good program," said Hart. "Because it's multi-faceted and that's what I like about it. We've also seen engagement from people that we didn't expect - like the USS Ranger, which is the foundation that's working to bring the big aircraft carrier to Fairview. They got a charm to help build awareness."
"You know it takes years for something to change from Washington, D.C. to here, but we can control our own," said Wills. "There's a lot of things we can do to make our own lives better."