Gloucester’s Main Street Program Receives Merit Award for Best Business Support Program – Pandemic Response

Excitingly, the Gloucester Main Street Association and Main Street Preservation Trust received a 2021 VMS Merit Award for Best Business Support Program, which recognizes an outstanding business support program or project.

Supporting new and existing small businesses, and the entrepreneurs who run them, represents a vital aspect of a vibrant downtown economy.  Strategies to foster that vibrancy require a community wide commitment to supporting a holistic ecosystem of entrepreneurship that retains businesses, while also promoting opportunities for expansion and for new businesses and entrepreneurs to join the mix.

In Gloucester Village, it truly took a village, along with some agile strategy, to support small businesses through the pandemic. The local Main Street program is a collaboration between two interconnected organizations, the Main Street Preservation Trust and the Gloucester Main Street Association, with a common vision to foster an economically and socially vibrant community.  Program leaders responded immediately to the lockdown aligning existing business resources to supplement lost income, adapt business models, and promote a constant and safe flow of consumers in the district. 

Early in the pandemic, they deployed several short-term programs, including an interest-free revolving loan fund for a quick source of cash flow and a marketing campaign directed at informing residents about business changes such as delivery, reduced hours and appointments. Strategy evolved to integrate an E-Commerce Grant for business, to help facilitate costs of developing and implementing E-commerce or contactless payment systems within their business models, and paired with a district-wide Retail Alliance membership to give downtown merchants access to networking and discounted training.

Main Street business promotions accelerated keeping downtown active throughout the year by utilizing the website, email newsletters, and social media for business outreach, community awareness, and growing followers.  Of greatest importance was inspiring stronger civic connections and spending with local businesses through enjoyable experiences, games, and prizes, included events such as the Where on Main Street are We Photo Contest; the Great Gloucester Village Takeout Challenge; Not Your Usual Easter Egg Hunt to spot the “golden egg”; Mother Like No Other – Mother’s Day story sharing competition; and the Find Love on Main Street Valentine’s Day treasure hunt, to name a few. 

Two efforts that deserve special recognition for their impact include:

Gloucester Downtown Dollars:

  • A custom-built e-commerce platform that allows shoppers to buy vouchers for all retail, restaurant and personal service businesses on Main Street, which stimulated an infusion of nearly $150,000 of expenditures in the district. Thanks to generous gifts by donors, for every dollar spent on a voucher, an additional 30% of spending was made possible, and over 400 local hospital health care workers received $100 gift certificates.

The Passport to Gloucester Village:

  • A three-month promotion to curtail road construction inconveniences and spur holiday-level spending through the typically slow winter months, engaged shoppers to visit, spend and earn “passport” stamps from participating local businesses. After receiving 10 stamps, shoppers could enter to win monthly drawings to win gift certificates. The total number of completed passports turned in was over 1,001 and stimulated over $200,000 of expenditures.

Click here to view the recorded 2021 VMS Merit Award presentation!