The Buy Local mentality is alive and well among our neighboring businesses here on Monroe Street in Madison, WI.  About 40 of the shops, restaurants and service providers on our street offer informal discounts for those who work on Monroe Street (or own their own business). The vast majority offer 10% off goods or services, although my employees can also get $2.00 off the rental of a swan paddle boat on Lake Wingra, or a reduced-price punch card for classes at The Fit.

This program would be easy to set up in any other area because it operates on the honor system.  As chair of the Monroe Street Merchants Association, I compiled a list (via e-mail) of what each business would like to offer.  This includes both their discount amount an also any exceptions to the discount. I’ll send the completed out today for the businesses to post where their employees can see it.  That way they’ll know where they can ask for a discount.

We also use the honor system when it comes to identifying who works on our street.  Outsiders don’t tend to know about the discounts, of course, and we haven’t had a problem with anyone claiming to be a Monroe Street business owner or employee.

There are several advantages to this no-cost program. The first is that it encourages all of us (and our staff members) to patronize our fellow businesses.  That helps us get to know what is on our street, which benefits all of us because we can confidently recommend neighboring shops and restaurants to our customers.

In addition, our employees enjoy this little added “perk.”  And I believe it creates a sense of camaraderie among those working in our shopping area that is good for building community.  The Buy Local movement is all about supporting independent businesses — and by shopping and dining on Monroe Street, we set a great example for others to follow.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

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