The city of Gulf Breeze is trying innovative ways to support their local businesses.
This holiday season, the city is encouraging people to support Gulf Breeze businesses by purchasing a #SaveTheBreeze gift card that works at any participating retailer or restaurant in the 32561 or 32563 ZIP codes.
The idea came from the people behind the Facebook group “Save the Breeze from the Barge Blunder” referring to the Skanska barges that damaged the Pensacola Bay Bridge during Hurricane Sally in September. The group of nearly 5,000 members was created to support area businesses that have been impacted by the bridge closure.
“They’ve been partnering with the city on events,” said Craig Chamberlin, the city’s neighborhood service coordinator. “We had a kickoff event in October called Barge-O-Ween where we had hundreds of local vendors and handed out gift cards to local businesses as raffle prizes.”
The digital Save the Breeze gift cards are slightly different from traditional gift cards since can be used at any of the 40-plus registered businesses. The city of Gulf Breeze has also invested $10,000 in purchasing Save the Breeze gift cards to use as raffle prizes at future events, like tomorrow’s Reverse Holiday Parade where people can drive around decorated floats instead of standing in a crowd.
The intention is to keep the initiative going well beyond the holiday season, but through the next year since there isn’t a date when the bridge will reopen.
“McDonald’s (at the foot of the bridge) has temporarily closed and mom-and-pop stores can’t afford to close so they’re just hanging on,” said Chamberlin. “We’ve been having positive feedback from businesses about the shop local campaigns.”
And businesses appreciate the city’s efforts in what has already been a rough year for retail because of COVID-19. Shannon Gardner, operations manager at Innerlight Surf Shop said it’s too early know how successful the Save the Breeze cards will be, but she has seen a push for people to shop local.
“Barge-O-Ween was a big success getting people in the doors,” she said. “People will still shop on Amazon — I shop on Amazon — but I’ve also been trying to find ways to buy things locally. I really don’t mind spending $5 to $10 more when that money goes back into our community.”
Right now, Innerlight is doing OK with holiday shopping, said Gardner. They also have locations in Pensacola and Destin. But the big worry is what happens after Christmas.
“The two months after Christmas are already the slowest,” she said. “Right now, we’re pretty much a dead end. All of our thru traffic is gone. And in the spring and summer months, we can’t expect locals to spend like tourists. Time will tell.”
Purchase a #SaveTheBreeze gift card here.