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Posted May 27, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Coupons, fliers provide boost to downtowns

Hometown Strasburg book of coupons
Hometown Strasburg Inc. has created "A Taste of Strasburg," a book of coupons for use at town restaurants. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Elizabeth Wilkerson -- ewilkerson@nvdaily.com

STRASBURG -- As lawmakers continue to haggle over how to spend federal stimulus dollars, two local organizations have launched efforts to stimulate their towns' economies by bringing customers to restaurants and shops.

In Strasburg, Hometown Strasburg Inc. has created "A Taste of Strasburg," a book of coupons for use at town restaurants. A dozen miles south, the Woodstock Enhancement Committee has created "Shopping Blox," a bimonthly flier advertising its downtown businesses.

"We were just trying to think of ways we could help support our downtown businesses," which is one of Hometown Strasburg's goals as an affiliate of Virginia's Main Street program, said the local group's president, Carla Wallen.

Wallen said 16 of the town's 22 dine-in restaurants opted to participate in the "A Taste of Strasburg" coupon book. Most of the buy-one-get-one-free coupons are good until May 15, 2010, she said, though some expire this summer.

The books are being sold for $20 each, she said, though each has more than $125 in potential savings. Wallen said 500 books have been printed, and about 200 have already been sold.

"It helps the restaurants because it brings in new traffic for them," she said. "Plus it helps, especially families, these days to go out and eat, because they're saving quite a bit.

"I know we've had people that have used them that have been very happy with them."

Donna Walker, one of the owners and managers of Big & Lil D's Diner, said the restaurant is excited to participate in the promotion, which provides another way to introduce the new eatery to the community.

"It's bringing a lot of new patrons into our establishment," Walker said. "One of the reasons we decided to go with it is simply because we're not on the main street in Strasburg. We're off the beaten path."

Both Walker and Tina Putman, owner of the Coffee Cafe, said it is nice to have a local organization working to promote the town's restaurants.

"I think Hometown is trying so hard to help all of the businesses in town, and I think it's a wonderful organization," Putman said. She said she thought participating in the promotion would add to the cafe's business.

"We are getting a lot of coupons from it, so I know people are using them and purchasing them," she said. "With the way the economy is right now, every little bit helps."

All the money Hometown Strasburg brings in above the promotion's expenses will go toward other projects to help the town, Wallen said, "so everybody wins."

The idea behind Woodstock's "Shopping Blox" is to "educate our visitors, as well as our residents, about everything we have to offer here," Business Enhancement Coordinator Jane Beasley said. There are 30 spaces for coupons or other information on each edition of "Shopping Blox," she said, which is published by the Woodstock Enhancement Committee, also an affiliate of Virginia's Main Street program.

Space on the flier is free, Beasley said, and there's "getting to be competition to be on there." Downtown business owners "were so excited to see something like this coming out," she said, and many responded immediately to the chance for space on the flier.

If "Shopping Blox" is successful, she said, it may be published monthly. Several businesses have already noticed customers mentioning the flier or bringing in coupons from it, she said.

"We'll just see what the response is and what the businesses feel are working best for them," she said. "It's been a struggle, you know, for the businesses, but teaching our residents that they can do a lot of their shopping at home has really helped.

"We need people to shop locally."

"A Taste of Strasburg" coupon books are available at Sager Real Estate, Bygones, Crawford Insurance, BB&T, Coffee Cafe and the Strasburg Chamber of Commerce, Wallen said.

Copies of "Shopping Blox" are available at a variety of town businesses, including Woodstock's hotels, Beasley said.

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