Winter Garden spearheads campaign for local businesses

The city’s Love Local campaign aims to build awareness of shopping and dining at local small businesses.

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Business around the country have suffered financial losses because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many have been forced to furlough or lay off staff members or, even worse, close their doors forever.

The city of Winter Garden has created the Love Local campaign and has been working with its brick-and-mortar shops and eateries to keep shoppers and diners returning to their establishments. The campaign includes a number of activities and programs through December, including monthly sidewalk sales, a partnership with a revenue-generation platform, Outdoor Dining Month, a 10-day Halloween experience, Shop Small Business Saturday, Holiday Boutique Stroll, seasonal activities and a new downtown Winter Garden website and social media platforms.

“Loving local bolsters the local economy since for every $100 spent at locally owned businesses, $68 will stay in the community, whereas, only $43 remains in the community when shopping at a national chain, according to the Independent We Stand organization,” said Tanja Gerhartz, economic development director for the city of Winter Garden.

The city is partnering with community organizations, such as Observer Media Group, the West Orange Chamber of Commerce and the Winter Garden Village at Fowler Groves to assist the local business community. The Love Local campaign offers multiple initiatives; the city also has partnered with Hownd, a company that generates immediate cash sales and future foot traffic for brick-and-mortar businesses.

“The new program will help all the businesses in the city that use sales, coupons, gift certificates, etc. for products or services,” Gerhartz said.

Consumers can take advantage of special savings, gift cards, vouchers and coupons through email, Facebook and the free MyHownd mobile app while shopping and dining at participating businesses.

“Axum Coffee, for example, could build a promo coupon where, if you buy a cup of coffee on Friday you can get a second cup,” Gerhartz said. “(If) a restaurant wants to put something out there, a retailer wants to put a gift certificate out there … shop and get 10% off. I’m thinking holidays.”

That coupon will be sent out digitally,” she said. “When you get to downtown, these promo coupons pop up. Some of these, you can press a button and the items will be purchased, and then you can go to the store to pick up.”

To help businesses within the city limits, Winter Garden has set up a sponsorship fund that covers the program’s costs.

“There is a backend fee to it, but the city is going to pick that up,” Gerhartz said. “We have $10,000, first come, first served. The program really is to really educate, make aware to our community to be aware of your local businesses because so many people are shopping online. We want to make it as safe as possible. If someone wants to shop online, they can, if someone wants to shop curbside they can.”

“Winter Garden is a strong community on so many levels, including a loyal base of residents and people from other areas who love our way of life and support our local businesses,” Winter Garden City Manager Mike Bollhoefer said. “The partnership with Hownd enables us to sustain this by providing residents and nearby consumers an easy way to do so. We’re glad that our city government is in a financial position to be able to offset the costs for our local merchants to market their businesses and attract more customers and revenue through this innovative Love Local partnership.”

Businesses are hurting, Gerhartz said.

“I was in Chico’s … and I was the only person in there,” she said of the Winter Garden Village location. “It’s not good. … Several stores aren’t going to renew their lease out there.”

WGV has signed on as a partner and has agreed to work closely with its businesses, she said.

The city of Winter Garden also has introduced an official website dedicated to its downtown merchants. will highlight the sector and serve as a resource for residents and visitors.

New Facebook and Instagram pages — officialdowntownwintergarden/ — were established to help residents stay connected to the latest downtown news.



Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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