LAKEVIEW — Love gift cards? Love shopping local? You're in luck this holiday season.
Starting Dec. 5, the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce will sell gift cards good at nearly 100 West Lakeview stores along Southport, Ashland and Lincoln. The cards don't expire and can be used at multiple locations, the chamber said.
To kick off the program, the chamber is offering a $20 bonus gift card for every $100 gift card purchased on Dec. 5 or 6, while supplies last.
"This is an easy gift card option for people that's also a way to raise awareness about the importance of shopping local," said Candace Canty, who owns Dog-a-holics at 3657 N. Southport Ave. "Keeping money in the community is important."
Canty is one of more than 100 small-business owners who have signed on to the program. Other stores include Beermiscuous, Heritage Bicycles, Southport Grocery and Theater Wit.
The Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce — which includes Broadway and runs along the lake — has run a similar gift card program since 2007. To date, it's put more than $411,000 back in the community, according to executive director Maureen Martino.
"It's great because people really see the value of shopping locally," Martino said. "And putting money into small businesses will really help keep them afloat during the tough times after the holidays."
More than 150 East Lakeview businesses — including Senza, Blue Man Group, Ceres' Table and Lakeview Athletic Club — have signed on. Martino said it's especially helpful for smaller stores that can't afford their own gift cards.
Farther north in Boystown, the Northalsted Business Alliance said it's had similar success with its own gift card program, which was launched five years ago and includes such businesses as Whole Foods, Savon Spa, Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club and the Chicago Diner.
"It's really effective because you're putting close to $100,000 back on the streets [per year] and keeping people shopping local," Jennifer Gordon said.
Both the East Lakeview Chamber and the Northalsted Business Alliance reserve about $20,000 of their annual budgets each year to offer holiday discounts on the gift cards.
In East Lakeview, people will receive 25 percent off each gift card purchase starting Dec. 6, until the $20,000 discount cap is reached. That means once the chamber has essentially given away $20,000 of its own money, no more discounts are offered, and people can buy the cards at full-price.
"This program is really about giving money back to the stores," Martino said. "It's not a moneymaking venture for the chamber. It's really about keeping costs down with low operating costs and big return."
The Lakeview Chamber is hoping it can replicate such success with its own program.
"It's a tool to stimulate the local economy and encourage people to shop local," executive director Heather Way Kitzes said. "We're really excited about the gift card. We think it's going to capture an entirely different audience and be more efficient in the long run."