For some people, gift cards are lazy and impersonal. For others, they are convenient and practical. For Easton Main Street Initiative, which debuted its Downtown Easton Gift Card program in late September, they are an innovative way to explore and invest in the city's downtown.
The gift card, which works like a preloaded credit card, is now accepted at eight new downtown businesses, including restaurants such as 3rd & Ferry Fish Market, shops such as Edible Arrangements, and studios such as Easton Yoga. In total, it's accepted at 65 locations, plus digital parking meters, in the city.
"We're thrilled to offer a one-size-fits-all option for people who frequent downtown Easton, as well as those who have been wanting to check it out," said EMSI assistant manager Amy Boccadoro. "People can really pick and choose their own adventures while supporting local merchants."
Josh Palmer, owner of two participating restaurants – Maxim's 22 and Sette Luna, has witnessed the success firsthand. He estimates about five gift cards are used at each of his restaurants weekly.
"Since the cards can be used at multiple places in the city, we're able to capture people who may not have already been aware of us," he said.
Other prominent establishments accepting the gift card, available in any denomination from $5 to $500, include the Grand Eastonian Suites Hotel, Sigal Museum, Porter's Pub, State Theatre, Two Rivers Brewing and Valenca.
According to Boccadoro, the idea for a downtown gift card was born a few years ago when Bank Street Annex manager Kerry Harrington approached the organization in search of an all-encompassing gift for her employees.
The timing "just wasn't right," Boccadoro said, citing various costs associated with getting such a program up and running, including the printing of cards and training.
Then last year, the idea resurfaced via EMSI manager Kim Kmetz, who took note of the downtown gift card program offered in Ithaca, N.Y., where her son attends college.
"We were lucky enough to receive a very generous $10,000 sponsorship from Easton Hospital and make the idea a reality," said Boccadoro, who notes the program's launch cost roughly $6,400.
The gift cards, which cost $2 to become activated, begin to lose value ($3 per month) if they are not used within a year. Once the card is used, however, a new 12-month cycle begins.
A full list of participating merchants can be found online at eastonmainstreet.org. Gift cards can be purchased via the website, the EMSI office at 35 S. Third St. or the Sigal Museum at 342 Northampton St. Info: 610-330-9940.
For Retail Watchers looking for a free way to explore downtown Easton, EMSI and Easton Business Association will present its Spring into Easton tasting crawl noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at 18 shops throughout the city.
Customers can visit stores such as Mercantile Home, RE:find and Used Grooves and enjoy food samples from Easton restaurants and pubs, including Batuque, Cheeburger Cheeburger and Pearly Bakers Ale House.
You can enter to win prizes, including Downtown Easton Gift Cards, by getting your game card (available at any participating location) stamped by all shops. Info: eastonmainstreet.org.
For Retail Watchers looking to enhance their computer performance, Microapex Computer Systems, an Allentown-based supplier of hardware, software, network and computer services, opened a second location March 24 at 5218 Main St. in Whitehall Township.
Owner Steve Reshetylo started the business in 1988, originally operating out of Bethlehem before moving to 555 Business Lane in Allentown in 1995.
The company offers custom computer configurations, development and setup of local and wide-area networks and various upgrades, including motherboards, modems and memory. Info: 610-403-2739 or microapex.com.
Thanks to my colleague John Moser, I learned that the Salt & Pepper Family Restaurant at 1162 MacArthur Road in Whitehall Township has closed. A sign outside now reads, "Coming Soon: Mayuri."
I have been unable to reach the owner, but will keep you updated as I learn more details.