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Charmed by downtown Gresham

by: Jim Clark, Local merchants are promoting “Shop Local” with a charm bracelet.

The Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce and Try Local First have introduced a charming way for area shoppers to get acquainted with merchants in Historic Downtown Gresham.

Nearly 50 downtown businesses are participating in the 'Be Charmed, Shop Local' program, selling small tokens of silver bling that they hope will have big returns.

'This program is designed to increase awareness of the services and products available here, outside the big box stores,' said Michael Gonzales, president of the Historic Downtown Gresham Business Association. 'It reintroduces people to downtown and lets them know we're here.'

Try Local First launched the program Friday, April 27, after learning of the success of similar ventures undertaken by the Sandy and Oregon City chambers of commerce as well as the Pendleton Round-Up. Participating merchants offer a silver charm representative of their product or service, which can be attached to a matching bracelet sold at the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce and Drake's 7-Dees Garden Center. In addition, shoppers receive a discount coupon for their next purchase at the business.

Shopping locally is a win-win for both merchant and consumer, Gonzales said, by keeping money circulating within the community and aiding in the creation of jobs. Plus, shopping closer to home saves time and gas. The charm program, Gonzales added, is an enticement to expand shoppers' horizons for what can be found in their own backyards.

'East County can do it all,' he said. 'We don't need to lean on Portland or Beaverton for services and products. We can be self-sustaining by supporting our small businesses.'

The charms have created a buzz in the downtown area, and some merchants are comparing the frenzy over acquiring them to a scavenger hunt.

'We're almost sold out,' said Debbie Phillips, owner of Bella Cupcake, whose signature charm is, of course, a cupcake. 'We ordered 50 charms and put them out about a week ago, but there are so many people talking about them in the community that we will probably have to get more.'

Judy Wylie, with Accent on Attitude, said initially it was her regular customers who were purchasing the store's silver purse. But as word has gotten out, she said, she's now meeting new customers looking for the charm, who are in turn lingering among the shop's signature purses and jewelry.

At Café Delirium, owner Cody Clark said demand for the café's coffee pot and cup charm has been brisk. But according to Clark's observations, the program appears to be making an impact.

'It's been crazy,' he said. 'The charms are flying off the counter, and we're looking to order more. I'm seeing people buying drinks in here, but they're also carrying shopping bags. I think it's been great for downtown.'

Try Local First is a committee within the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce. It is composed of representatives from the chamber, the Historic Downtown Gresham Business Association, West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce, Rockwood Business Coalition and the East Metro Economic Alliance. Formed in 2008, the group sponsors several events throughout the year, including the Spirit of Christmas, East County's Got Talent and Rockwood's Cinco de Mayo celebration.

The group has a Facebook page and is encouraging residents to 'like' the page and post comments about their downtown shopping experience.

For more information on 'Be Charmed, Shop Local' or for other ways to support community businesses, visit trylocalfirst.org.