It’s holiday shopping time! Checklist: wallet ... comfortable shoes ... shopping list ... passport. Passport?
This year, the Louisville Independent Business Alliance, or LIBA, is sponsoring its fourth annual Holiday Passport Contest. The program helps raise awareness of shopping local all year long – not just in November and December – and offers a chance to win cash prizes and gift certificates.
“We want to encourage people to get out and try new things and discover some of the unique options that are available,” says LIBA administrator Jennifer Rubenstein. And there’s no shortage of options. Compared to the one-page list of participating businesses in 2007, this year’s “passport” boasts 72 pages, with 415 locally grown shops and services represented.
Rubenstein explains that the contest aspect of the Holiday Passport program encourages patrons to visit multiple businesses and get their passports stamped five times before January 6, 2012, for a chance to win gift certificates or the grand prize of $1,000 to spend at LIBA member businesses. “We came up with the contest to not only educate people about why shopping indie is important, but also give them a game plan and an incentive,” she says.
LIBA, which is made up of Rubenstein and an 11-member board of independent businesspeople, is rife with enthusiastic members. “We chose to be a lead participant of the promotion because we believe in the idea that supporting local businesses is important,” says Linda Brock, marketing director at Feeders Supply. “Plus, this contest is fun. Everyone benefits!” Brock says that LIBA’s Shop Local campaign is important to the 52-year-old, Louisville-based pet supply chain every day of the year. “One of our interests in being a LIBA member is to help promote the fact that Feeders Supply is a local, family-owned business. We often find that people assume that because we have 14 locations we must be a national chain. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
In addition to the $1,000 grand prize, every patron who collects five stamps on his or her passport and drops it off at any Highland Cleaners or Feeders Supply location will receive a free “Keep Louisville Weird” sticker. Last year, more than 350 people completed their passports; in 2011, a mail-in option promises greater involvement.
Summer Auerbach, COO of Rainbow Blossom Natural Food Market, says that LIBA “really reinforces our message that we’re locally owned and committed to Louisville and this community. It backs up what we do.” She also stresses that by sticking close to home and carrying local products, Rainbow Blossom and other like-minded indies are “more responsive and more flexible than our chain competition. More money stays in the community. People spend a dollar in our store, and it’s going to circulate locally and have a greater impact on your community.”
Of course, the slogan of LIBA is “Keep Louisville Weird,” which erstwhile ear X-tacy owner John Timmons adopted after a visit to Austin, Texas, where he became acquainted with its “Keep Austin Weird” campaign. “John is the reason [LIBA] is around,” Rubenstein says. “He put up the billboards and ads all out of his own pocket. Business owners wanted to join in, but there was no organization to join. Now there is.” (Unfortunately, due to the changing nature of the music industry, founding member ear X-tacy closed in October after 26 years in business.)
Brock has a small issue with the word “weird,” or at least the popular definition of it. “We’re not weird,” she says. “Our community is a wonderful place to live because of the diverse neighborhoods, intriguing local shops, fabulous locally owned restaurants and more. We love living here because of all the wonderful features, and we’re sure others feel the same.”
Auerbach wholeheartedly agrees. “I think the best word is ‘unique,’ she says. “I think ‘unique’ has so many positive connotations. When we say ‘weird,’ we’re saying that these are the things that let you know you’re in Louisville and not somewhere else. When you see Heine Brothers’, you know you’re in Louisville. When you’re at Rainbow Blossom, you know you’re in Louisville. These are very Louisville things you can’t find anywhere else, and it makes us stand out as a different type of town.”
LIBA Holiday Passports are available at participating member business locations around Louisville. A complete list of businesses, contest details and a printable entry form can also be found on LIBA’s website, www.keeplouisvilleweird.com.