Gloucester Main Street businesses will see an infusion of $40,000, and over 400 health care workers from Riverside Walter Reed Hospital will receive $100 gift certificates to shop in the Gloucester Village, thanks to the recently launched Downtown Dollars program, an innovative economic recovery program spearheaded by the Gloucester Main Street Preservation Trust and made possible thanks to a substantial gift from Dr. Ron Haggerty, his wife, Katherine Haggerty, FNP, and an anonymous donor.
“Here we have this dark cloud that has settled, not just our community, but our nation, and we have this silver lining that is proving such inspiration to so many people, I can’t even tell you how grateful we are,” said Jenny Crittenden, Executive Director of the Trust. “And the story itself – of how two medical workers on the frontlines of the COVID crisis came together to make a donation that will so profoundly impact businesses suffering from the economic devastation of the virus – couldn’t be any more powerful.”
The Story of Downtown Dollars
When the COVID-19 crisis began, the Gloucester Main Street Preservation Trust began working immediately with businesses in the historic corridor to help them weather the storm and prepare to recover.
“Out of that came the idea to launch Downtown Dollars,” said Jenny Crittenden, Executive Director for the Trust. “We wanted find a way to make it easy for consumers to purchase gift certificates to Main Street restaurants, retail shops and service providers, like spas, in a time when these businesses needed stimulus like never before.”
Little did Crittenden know, but at the same time, the Haggerty family – with Ron, the physician for Direct Access Internal Medicine on Main Street, and Katherine, a hospitalist nurse practitioner at nearby Riverside Walter Reed Hospital, were thinking up their own ways to help.
“As this crisis has evolved, it has been so distressing to watch what it has done to our local economy, our local business owners, people working in our community,” Ron said. “I’ve watched it here on Main Street with the traffic declining to nearly nothing. I’ve watched our restaurants have nearly no customers, and saw retail shops closing down. We looked at our own personal situation and felt as though we need to do something.”
As Katherine said, we wondered “what if we just bought a bunch of gift certificates to businesses on Main Street and disperse those?”
But who would get them? How would they get them?
“Then we had an ah-ha moment,” Katherine said.
First, it was the connection to Crittenden, who was building this platform to sell the gift certificates.
“Then we realized we could and we should give the gift certificates to every member of the hospital staff – the entire hospital staff,” Katherine said. “Yes, they have jobs, but it’s a tough job, and especially tougher during a pandemic. You worry about your patients, you worry about taking something home to your family.”
How Downtown Dollars Works
With funding from the Virginia Main Street program, which granted the Trust $10,000 to help build the Downtown Dollars Program, the Trust built an online portal to sell the Main Street gift certificates, called Downtown Dollars.
Downtown Dollars, available HERE, is an online, gift certificate marketplace for select businesses on Gloucester Main Street.
Consumers can purchase gift certificates to select businesses at 30% less the face value and redeem for 100% of the face value.
The businesses still receive 100% of the value of the gift certificate thanks to the Trust covering the cost of the other 30%.
“A consumer can buy a $100 gift certificate to, say, a restaurant,” explained Crittenden. “The consumer only pays $70. The Trust covers the other $30. The restaurant gets the full $100.”
The impact of Ron and Katherine Haggerty’s gift, in addition to another anonymous donor inspired by what they were doing, comes in that the gift certificates purchased for the health care team at Riverside Walter Reed Hospital were done through the Downtown Dollars program.
“If we can inspire those who are doing well to participate in this type of a program and we can get tens of thousands of dollars or more infused into Main Street and that can sustain them through this crisis and they can be stronger on the other end and are still around, that hopefully will lead to the long term success of our Main Street businesses.”
Main Street business owners believe it will.
“To think that someone in our community has stepped up already and donated a significant amount of money that is going to benefit every business on Main Street, I dare say there is anywhere in the country has that at all,” said Gary Ward, owner of Olivia’s in the Village.
“This is a true example of the generous Gloucester spirit,” said Michael and Emilie Richardson of Smith’s Florist & Gift Shop. “There is no question that all the businesses in the downtown can use the money right now.”
How to Purchase from Downtown Dollars
The Downtown Dollars program is live and open for business HERE.