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Chamber initiates 'Love Ashland Local' campaign

By mayoral proclamation, the Saturday after Thanksgiving was declared “Small Business Saturday” in the city of Ashland, following a national trend to support the 31.7 million small businesses in the U.S. over the holiday season, according to city documents.

This year, the Ashland Chamber of Commerce is rolling out new incentives for shopping local during the COVID-19 era, whether with feet on the pavement or hands on a computer.

Membership and Business Development Director Dana Preston said the national idea, which has gained momentum over the past decade, shines a light on the value of independent retailers.

“When we have the Festival of Lights celebration the day after Thanksgiving, not only is it our goal to create magic and have this incredibly beautiful place for people to come and explore, it’s also to really give that strong message about supporting independent businesses during the holiday season,” Preston said.

Still, the chamber’s repetitious “shop local” messaging is more than a plea to support the businesses that weave together the fabric of the town’s unique community atmosphere. For Preston, supporting small businesses isn’t a dreary obligation, but an exciting privilege in Ashland, where business owners often staff their own stores and will order specific items upon a customer’s request.

“It’s not just ‘shop local’ because your businesses need you, it’s also ‘shop local’ because our businesses carry awesome products,” she said.

For those who aren’t comfortable visiting a brick-and-mortar site, many Ashland businesses have enhanced their websites for online shopping and offer local delivery or curbside pickup. The chamber created a website, shopashlandoregon.com, which features about 40 businesses so far. The site is a “one-stop shop to explore Ashland independent retail,” she said.

Customers can place a necklace from The Crown Jewel, a jacket from Travel Essentials, pecan brittle from Branson’s Chocolates and a book from Bloomsbury Books in one online shopping cart, for example, with a variety of item retrieval options.

While the website focuses on retail, Preston emphasized that Ashland’s local businesses include restaurants — an experiential option for gift giving, she said.

Those who prefer to be out on foot can participate in a Rudolph scavenger hunt Saturday. Clues to find eight strategically hidden reindeer will be posted to the chamber website.

Also launching on Small Business Saturday is the chamber’s Love Ashland Local campaign — every time a customer shops locally (in person or online), picks up a to-go order from a restaurant, purchases a bottle of wine, receives a spa treatment, etc., each receipt or proof of purchase enters the customer to win chamber gift certificates. Winners will be selected weekly through Dec. 25. Information is available at shopashlandoregon.com.

Preston applauded Ashland businesses for implementing a litany of protocols to keep their customers and employees safe during a public health crisis. Mask wearing, frequent hand washing, sanitizing and staying home when feeling sick remain top public health recommendations.

“Our businesses have done so much to protect us and I think we have a unique opportunity to not only support them, but to keep us all safe too,” Preston said.

Contact Ashland Tidings reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com and follow her on Twitter @AllayanaD.

Andy Atkinson / Ashland Tidings The Artisans Market downtown Saturday morning.