MONROE, CT — Leslie Troy directed a customer toward a rack a clothing she was interested in, while standing behind the counter inside Pemberley Designer Consignments at Clock Tower Square on Main Street Friday afternoon.
“The best thing about being a small business owner is it’s about community,” Troy said. “Each business has to create its community, and within that build relationships. You’re not going to go into a big box store and have people greet you by name and say, ‘I have something that will look fabulous on you.'”
Troy said she sometimes holds things aside when she knows a customer will be coming in, who would be interested in the garments.
Retailers and other small business owners like Troy are struggling to stay afloat amid restrictions from the Coronavirus pandemic, but a promotion encouraging people to shop local may help.
Monroe, CT Residents, a community Facebook page, is running Monroe Merriment, a promotion that packs a one-two-punch, enabling residents to support their local merchants, while helping families in need by raising money for the Monroe Food Pantry. As of noon on Saturday, $595 of the $3,500 available through community participation was reached.
“I’m very concerned that our retail in Monroe is struggling a lot,” said Barbara Fahr, an organizer of the promotion. “We’ve lost at least one boutique already and others are trying very hard to adapt and hang in there.”
Before shopping online through companies like Amazon for the holidays, Fahr said townspeople should think of how often Monroe merchants support town organizations and causes by donating gift certificates and baskets to local fundraisers.
Small business owners are approached by residents to support everything from fundraisers for the Wolfe Park playground project, Masuk Post Prom and youth sports to Project Warmth — and always come through.
“Could they have bought an item in town instead?” Fahr asked. “The team behind the Monroe Residents group wants to help remind our community, and introduce all those that are new to town, to all we have to offer right here! We also wanted to encourage some whimsical fun.”
How it works
Whenever someone posts a photo or a short video of themselves at one of the participating businesses with the hashtags: #monroethemerrier #doyourbusinessinmonroe and #feedyourneighbor, an anonymous donor gives $5 for a photo and $10 for a video to the food pantry.
Fahr said each day a clue and a call of action is posted on the page. For example, Friday and Saturday’s clues were L&R and Turning the Page and the activity was wearing a crown.
When someone wears a crown and uses the hashtag: #monroethemerrier, Lisa Marie Pinto, a town resident, donates an extra $5 for the post. When Pinto read Fahr’s post about Monroe Merriment, she said it made her think of a festival gathering — something happy.
“I jokingly said, ‘should I wear a gown?’ and someone said, ‘Lisa, why don’t you wear your crown?’ and I said, ‘I’ll get crowns for everyone,'” Pinto recalled.
Pinto, who has a collection, bought her first crown at an estate sale 20 years ago. “It was a beautiful tiara,” she said. “The woman said, ‘wear it when you want to.’ I sometimes wear it out and someone will ask if it’s my birthday. I say, ‘no. I’m wearing it because I can.’ It makes people smile.”
Pinto is giving away silver and gold plastic crowns for Monroe Merriment and left some at businesses for people. Among those carrying crowns are: La Guadalupana Boutique, Lorraine K. Boutique, Pemberley Designer Consignments and Benedict’s Home & Garden.
Whenever someone posts a photo or video of themselves wearing a crown at participating businesses on the Monroe, CT Residents page, Pinto will enter them into a drawing to be held at the end of the promotion. The prize will be a metal crown with rhinestones.
Appreciation from merchants
Residents participating in Monroe Merriment are descending upon the town’s wide variety of businesses with their cameras and cellphones.
Lisa Squibb Sand posted a photo of a gray sweater: “Shout out to Lori at the Mason Jar for hand delivering my order to my doorstep today. I’m so impressed with the store and the pretty, cozy sweater. Nothing like doing business locally! Thank you, Lori.”
“Found an amazing selection of toys today at CARD$MART!” Marion Frost posted.
Aside from helping the town’s established businesses, Monroe Merriment has encouraged residents to visit ones they’ve never gone to before, or to shops that recently opened, like 574 Wines and Spirits, 574 Monroe Turnpike.
On Friday, the spirit shop was decorated for the holidays with giant snowflakes and garland hanging from the ceiling above the aisles of bottled wines.
“I think it’s great,” Ty Nicholson, the store manager, said of promotions like Monroe Merriment, “because everybody can’t get together, so they go online and see a comment and think, ‘let’s check it out.'”
“I love it,” said Pia Ledina, owner of Turning the Page Books at Clock Tower Square. “Barbara Fahr has been a huge proponent of businesses in town, forever actually. I really love this project, because the focus and effort, this time, is on shops like ours — and it’s fun to see people come in with wigs and crowns. It’s really fun for a children’s bookstore.”
Pemberley Consignments does shows on Facebook Live and takes pictures for Monroe Merriment when customers come in to pick up their online purchases.
“I think Barbara is a godsend,” said Troy. “What she’s doing for the community is incredible. People want to help and she’s giving them a vehicle to. So many people who moved to this area, it’s allowing them to find doctors, service people and places to shop.”