Holiday Passport Challenge encourages local shopping in New Milford

NEW MILFORD — A new program to encourage local shopping is underway, with an opportunity for residents to win prizes.

Ultimate New Milford, launched last week by New Milford Economic Development Corp., is an ongoing shop local program geared toward independent town businesses.

The program recently kicked off with a Holiday Passport Challenge to encourage local shopping through Jan. 1.

All types of businesses in town are eligible for the program. Patrons who purchase from an independent New Milford business, online or in-store, can enter for daily drawings of gift cards from local shops starting at $20.

“Ultimate New Milford is going to market and promote small independent businesses and take action to bring resources that will make the community healthier and stronger,” said New Milford Economic Development Director Karen Pollard. “Making a long-term commitment to this effort will expand the business base, create local jobs and entrepreneurship, and increase investment in New Milford”.

The Bank Street Group is a sponsor of the holiday challenge. Thirty local businesses have signed up to participate and promote the event.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Maureen Kenny, owner of Nutmeg Olive Oil, said of the passport challenge. “Anything we can do to generate interest to shop locally, especially this year, is critical.”

Kenny emphasized how 50 to 80 percent of sales at many small businesses, including hers, happens in the last quarter of the year, meaning the next few weeks are the most important for their survival.

“The coming weeks are our busiest,” she said. “It’s a big chunk of our business.”

Kenny said she and other merchants in town are doing what they can to provide safe ways for residents to shop. That includes curbside delivery, gift wrapping, private shopping hours, and even home delivery in some cases.

Marie McCarthy, owner of Nordica Toys, said she is encouraging all of her customers to participate in the challenge.

A sign about the program is posted at her checkout counter. She suggested customers take a photo of it, as the QR code on the sign will take customers to the website to enter for a prize.

She said her business has been steady since she reopened in May, and that customers are “supportive.”

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed for December,” she said.

Pollard said the local economy is well-known for its successful “small business community, robust shopping and dining options, and regular celebratory events sponsored by area businesses.”

However, “the challenges and unpredictability of 2020 has shaken, but not broken, the independent business community and the customers who love and support them,” she said. “ ... Everyone has been very strong in the face of adversity, and the small business community in New Milford has grown during this difficult year.”

Ultimate New Milford is one of the ways to help businesses in the interim, and give residents an opportunity to win gift certificates.

There is no cost for businesses to join, and a donation of a gift card is optional.

Entries will be collected online through the Ultimate New Milford Facebook page, and it’s estimated that $2,000 in gift cards will be given away.

Drawings will be held daily or more frequently, depending upon the number of cards available.

Businesses and winners will be featured on social media as well.

For more information, call Pollard at 860-355-5001 or email kpollard@newmilford.org.