How the Magic Multiplier Gift Card Program Helped Two Phelps County Businesses
17 Aug 2020
When the economic blows due to the COVID-19 pandemic started buffeting Phelps County businesses, Phelps County Development Corporation (PCDC), Phelps County Community Foundation and Holdrege Area Chamber of Commerce stepped in with the Magic Multiplier Gift Card Recovery Program.
In the Magic Multiplier program launched on April 1, PCDC doubled the value of every gift card purchased at Phelps County businesses until the funds ran out. If a customer purchased a $50 gift card, the business owner received $100 ($50 from PCDC and $50 from the customer).
“The program was established to act as a bridge from the time when businesses had to curtail their operations due to government-imposed restrictions and the arrival of federal assistance checks,” PCDC Executive Director Ron Tillery said.
All told, the Magic Multiplier program infused nearly $200,000 into the local economy. The community purchased $94,042 in gift certificates from area retailers, restaurants and service businesses between April 1 and April 17 with the PCDC matching that amount.
Pretty & Fabulous, a custom T-shirt shop and boutique owned by Jennifer Weber, was one of the businesses hit hard from several different angles. She had to close her business, including her storefront gift store, for the entire month of March. Canceled events meant custom T-shirt requests disappeared.
“I make T-shirts for school events and functions so all of those were wiped out,” said Weber. “I also have a wholesale line to boutiques and with COVID closing many of their businesses those T-shirt orders were also wiped out.”
“The Magic Multiplier Gift Card program meant so much to my business,” said Weber. “It was amazing to see how many people wanted to support us small businesses and help us to stay afloat during this, while they may have been struggling themselves. It helped not only with sales, but also with morale, and I knew that people supported and loved our small businesses.”
Weber did her own community outreach by designing T-shirts with some local businesses, and then giving those businesses the proceeds from the sales. She also launched a T-shirt fundraiser with the Bertrand community. That community benefitted, and she got to keep her direct to garment printers running to avoid costly problems from disuse.
“As we come out of COVID, business is picking up again,” said Weber. “Schools are planning to start sports so sport T-shirts are in full swing. Boutiques that I wholesale to are also back up and running and people are ready to get out of their homes so they are excited for new merchandise. I've had a lot of people just stop in to talk and make sure things are going well too! I love living in the community I do because everyone cares and wants to make sure they do what they can to help! I can't wait until some of our big events happen again so I can do some exciting things to give back!”
J.B.'s Sports Bar and Grill owned by Jerry and Staci Fertig was another business hit hard by the pandemic. When they had to close down their dining room in mid-March, they saw a 50 percent drop in sales despite continuing takeout and implementing curbside service. Then came the Magic Multiplier program.
“The Magic Multiplier program was awesome!” said Staci Fertig. “The community was so supportive and this gave us an avenue of revenue that we had never had before. The PCDC went above and beyond by doing this grant program and we are forever grateful for their support.”
As restrictions were lifted on in-person dining, Staci Fertig was grateful to have a large dining room where they could spread the tables out and give people the space to feel comfortable with social distancing. She is excited to welcome the diners back.
“There is no other community we would rather be in business in,” she said. “Holdrege is a great community who has really come together during this time.”
The Magic Multiplier program spread the assistance to more than local businesses. The Phelps County Community Foundation (PCCF) also matched gift card purchases with its funds going to the Phelps County Disaster Relief Fund to help people with basic needs such as food, medical prescriptions, rent and utilities. According to Karen Faber, Executive Director of the PCCF, the foundation cannot grant directly to businesses or individuals, so it works with organizations that can like the disaster relief fund.
More organizations in the community were inspired to add to the relief efforts. The Holdrege Area Chamber of Commerce partnered by creating an online gift-card purchasing platform on its website and by encouraging residents to shop local and continue to support area businesses. Farm Bureau Financial Services in Holdrege purchased gift cards from area businesses and then donated them to local healthcare workers at six facilities to show support and appreciation.
“The community stepped up, and I believe that PCDC provided meaningful financial support to more than 70 individual businesses, not to mention the emotional buttressing from the programs at a time of great stress,” Ron Tillery said. “Now, it’s time to shift from survive mode to thrive.”
The Phelps County Development Corporation works together with investor partners to grow a vibrant Phelps County economy. PCDC’s work includes attracting residents, recruiting new and retaining existing businesses and manufacturers, securing a quality workforce and promoting Phelps County as a great place to live, work and conduct business. PCDC is funded through private investors supplemented by program income from LB840, approved by voters, which directs city sales tax proceeds to economic development.