New group urges shoppers: 'think local'

GENOA – Sometimes, local residents end up at Tobinson’s Ace Hardware after they’ve exhausted the big-box options.

“They’ll say, ‘I tried Menards, I tried Lowe’s, I tried everywhere, and it turns out you’ve got it right here,’” owner Carolyn Tobinson said. “You want to say, nicely, ‘Next time, try here to see if we have it first.’”

Getting people to shop their hometown merchants first is the goal of Explore Genoa, a new committee within the Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce. The committee is essentially a volunteer department within the chamber focused on getting people to shop locally.

“The total focus is think local, shop local,” chamber director Kristie Mulso said. “Not just the downtown district; this is not Main Street. This is about exploring Genoa.”

The committee follows the lead of a larger shop-local movement, Tobinson said. Several years ago, American Express started Small Business Saturday, urging people to shop locally-owned businesses the day after Black Friday. Communities across the country have embraced the 3/50 Project, which encourages people to spend $50 at three locally-owned businesses each month.

“There is a big difference when people spend money in town, as far as how much of that money stays in the town and supports local programs,” said Tobinson, who is chairing the committee. “We have all kinds of shopping right here in Genoa, but people, especially if they work out of town, may be accustomed to buying out of town and don’t realize it.”

The committee’s first project is the 12 Days of Christmas raffle. Raffle tickets are on sale now and will be sold through Dec. 7, Mulso said. From Dec. 10 through Dec. 21, 12 winners will be drawn. Each day, $100 will be awarded. There will also be two bonus days – on one, $250 will be awarded and on the other, $500. Each winning ticket goes back in the mix for another chance to win.

The prizes are given out in the form of $20 gift certificates redeemable at businesses that belong to the chamber of commerce, Mulso said.

“People might think they can’t spend that much in Genoa, but think about it,” she said. “You could go to Tobinson’s and put it toward a snowthrower. You could put it toward a new set of tires at Alan Browne’s. You could buy wine at the winery for holiday gifts. You could give $20 gift certificates as gifts for Christmas.

“We just want people to stop and think about shopping locally first.”

12 Days of Christmas Raffle

Tickets for the 12 Days of Christmas Raffle are on sale in Genoa at Resource Bank, NB&T, Heartland Bank & Trust (formerly Citizens), Tobinson’s Ace Hardware or the Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce office through Dec. 7. Only 1,000 tickets will be sold. Twelve winners will be drawn between Dec. 10 and 21; all winning tickets go back in the mix for another chance to win. Prizes are chamber gift certificates, redeemable at all Genoa chamber member businesses, and are valued at $100 to $500.

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