Memberships program fuel Old Town businesses

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Tony Black

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The Old Town Commercial Association has successfully implemented a membership program for more than two decades to increase community involvement while keeping foot-traffic coming to the shops.

Starting in the late 1990s, Old Town’s individual and business membership programs have helped to keep those interested in being a part of the neighborhood coming back for more, OTCA board president, Jamie Schriner, said.

“It helps to show their support for the community,” Schriner said. “It helps to bring in funding and resources, but then if they become members, it means that they’re going to come down here and support the community and support the businesses.”

For an individual, a membership allows you to receive discounts at participating shops, restaurants, and businesses.

There are incentives that attract businesses to join like features of their business in newsletters.

When the program first started, business memberships were pushed more than individual memberships, Schriner said.

They now push all types of memberships to get people involved.

“We’re promoting the individual memberships,” Schriner said.

In the past couple years, Schriner said she has seen the amount of individual memberships increase.

Summer Schriner, owner of Grace Boutique, which has been a part of the membership program for 12 to 13 years, said she, too, has seen more people becoming members.

She said more people “like what they see down here and they want to be a part of it.”

More than half of the businesses in Old Town are part of this program and offer perks to those who are also members.

“The restaurants have a good deal with it and Zoobie’s offers, like, free popcorn if you’re a member,” Shannon Murphy, a resident of Lansing, said.

Murphy has had a membership with Old Town for two or three years and says she uses it almost every time she makes a purchase.

“The benefits for me are that I get a discount,” she said. “Where I spend my money, they value me as a customer enough to provide me something more for going down there.”

She said the membership paid for itself after a couple times using it.

“Even if you just go to Old Town for gift shopping, or just for festivals, or just a couple times a year, this, still, is worth it,” Murphy said.

Showing the value of customers is a main reason this program exists, Summer Schriner said.

“I think being a member of that organization, really, it makes you feel like a part of what’s happening down here and it keeps you invested,” Summer Schriner said.

When you get a membership in Old Town, you’re supporting the neighborhood, Jamie Schriner said.

“I like to shop small and shop local,” Murphy said. “To have the ability to kind of go to one area and have several shops, variety of shops, and then have the discount card on top of it, it makes shopping a lot easier.”

Not only the discounts at shops and restaurants, but discounts at Old Town Commercial Association events, like the Festival of the Moon & Sun, are included.

“Another benefit of the memberships that a lot of people don’t realize is it gets you a discount at any of the Old Town Commercial Association run festivals,” Murphy said.

She said you get $5 off the ticket for these events.

The membership program isn’t just for discounts, it’s for showing your support towards the community, Jamie Schriner said.

“It gets you a lot of great discounts if you want to take advantage of it, but I think what everyone in the neighborhood really is looking for is for you to be a part of things happening down here,” Summer Schriner said.

Jamie Schriner said some people don’t use the discounts at participating places.

“I think they just like supporting the neighborhood,” she said.