Local stores and restaurants collaborate with the Long Beach Surfers Association on gift-card project this holiday season.
Story and Photo by Steve Fiorentine.
With the holidays shopping season in full swing, Long Beach businesses are still trying to recover from the damage and losses suffered during Hurricane Sandy in October. In an effort to jumpstart some of them, the Long Beach Surfers Association (LBSA) is teaming up with Earth Arts, Swingbellys, Skudin Surf and Minnesota’s to encourage shoppers to “Shop LB for the Holidays.”
This collaborative efforts asks financially capable shoppers to purchase gift certificates or gift cards from local businesses and drop them off at Earth Arts, at 162 W. Park Ave. There, people who need help can give a $5 donation in exchange for $50 worth of gift certificates. The donations will then go toward purchasing more gift certificates from local vendors. This project kicked off in November and will run until Christmas.
“It seems like a lot of people are thinking a little bit outside of the box to try to make things work, and that’s awesome because if we weren’t doing that, forget it,” LBSA president Billy Kupferman said.
“We’d all have to close shop and leave and nobody wants to do that,” Earth Arts owner Michelle Kelly said.
The idea for the event hit Kupferman when he was talking with his friend, Chris Sullivan. Sullivan wanted to do something to support local businesses on Small Business Saturday in November and Kupferman was looking for something the surfers association could do. The two of them put their heads together and the gift certificate idea was born.
It just kind of seemed, once we spoke about it a little bit, like a no brainer,” Kupferman said. “Like we could kill two birds with one stone.”
Kupferman’s idea was made easier when Tim and Michelle Kelly, members of the LBSA, volunteered their store, Earth Arts, as a central location for the operation. The Kelly’s had yet to reopen their store for business since the storm and wanted to use the space for something positive.
“They were looking for a place to set it up and to do it,” Tim said. “We said well our store isn’t being used right now and it’s got tables and chairs and shelves.”
“They might as well use it for some good,” Michelle added.
From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, Earth Arts is open for shoppers to drop off purchased gift certificates and for people to pick up the discounted gift certificates. The Kellys also said that people can slide purchased gift certificates under their door when no one is at the store.
The Kellys, like many business owners in Long Beach, have been unable to reopen since the storm hit. However, as shoppers are starting to come back to Long Beach, the support that they have received from their customers has been inspiring.
“The people are awesome and they’ve been very understanding with the fact that we had water in here and there was a lot of muck,” Tim said.
Throughout the storm, the LBSA members have volunteered to help individuals in need by working on storm-damaged houses and tending to their owners’ immediate need, while also leaning on each other to get by.
“We have this association of 200 people that with one email, it’s guaranteed that there are five people there to help the next day,” Kupferman said.
Kupferman said that despite how terrible the storm’s impact has been on the city, it’s inspiring to see how people have come together. “That’s another reason I think why we felt like this would work,” Kupferman added.
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