‘Shoot, everybody needs something’: How Hamilton is helping businesses, one gift card at a time

The Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce has launched a website to sell gift certificates that are helping Hamilton businesses stay afloat.

Two business owners whose companies were able to remain open during the state’s shut-down orders for non-essential businesses said they were grateful for the program, which was financed by a $300,000 loan from Hamilton city government.

The website's address is www.hamiltongiftcards.com.

The website lists 62 companies with gift certificates available. Each business applied for financial assistance through the program. The Hamilton Economic Development Corporation will recoup the $300,000 over time when people buy gift certificates, which are being sold in $25 and $50 amounts.

Chamber President and CEO Dan Bates said many cities across Ohio have been calling him, applauding the effort, wanting to know how they can imitate it.

The companies will earn their part of the money by providing the goods and services purchased through the gift certificates, which are on sale now, but they cannot be redeemed until June 1.

“It’ll allow us to keep the doors open for another day,” said Chris Pfefferle, owner of Pfefferle Tire & Auto. “It’s day-by-day, honestly. Right now, we’re trucking along. We’ve had a turndown in business, so it helps us keep on going for another day.”

Companies in the program include restaurants, bars, micro-breweries, gift shops, personal services, entertainment and sports.

“It was a help to us,” Pfefferle said. “In these times, shoot, everybody needs something, so that was an instant little help for us. Hopefully they can get out there in the community and get people buying them, and get some people in here.”

Mike Neal, owner of Neal’s Famous BBQ, was thankful for the city help, and said business, which initially dropped significantly, now has risen to about half what it had been.

He said curbside pickup business has increased “because everyone is banding together to support one another.”

Neal’s grab-and-go business on the West Side has been open on weekends recently but will expand its hours in coming weeks, he said. He also has added $5 pickup specials.

“When the pandemic first happened, business was very slow,” Neal said. “We saw a huge drop because there were no dine-ins, but as everyone started banding together, we have seen a tremendous increase.”

At first, there was just a handful of customers. But now, “we’re getting back up to halfway of where we were,” said Neal, who has been in business 18 years.

“We hired a few more people, and called a couple of them back,” thanks to the cash infusion. Including him and his wife, the company has 10 employees now.

How long can his company survive if Ohio’s stay-at-home orders continue several more weeks, or longer?

“Through much prayer, we believe that we can survive, and we will survive, as long as we keep a great product out and continue to be optimistic about things,” Neal said.

There’s a variety of participating companies, including Bee Driving School, Milillo’s Pizza, Hyde’s Restaurant, Future Great Wrestling, Main Street Vinyl, Immortal Fitness, Arches Saloon and Revive Salon.

Pfefferle said initially, business was steady, but about a week ago, “it dipped, and we have not come back from that yet.”

“It’s different every day, but at the same time, let’s hope this stuff ends in a couple weeks,” he said.

To potential customers, Pfefferle has this message: “We’re here. We’re essential. We’re open for business. So don’t forget about us.”

While people work at home or elsewhere, his company will pick up your vehicle and drop it back off, disinfecting it before you get it back, he said: “We can keep you going, while we keep us going.”

As for the city providing $300,000 from its $2 million Budget-Stabilization Fund, Pfefferle said: “The city’s really looking out for their small businesses. Who knows what’s going to happen after this ends, right? I heard about that skating center out there in West Chester today. It’s just like, ‘They’re done, before this stuff’s even over with.’ How many other little places are going to open back up?”

“When you think about what the city’s done for us by offering this program and doing this, they’re really invested in their businesses, and it makes me a proud Hamiltonian,” Pfefferle said.

$300,000 program helping city businesses stay afloat

Here are the Hamilton businesses whose gift certificates are being sold through the program:

  • A Chatti Hair Salon
  • A Game Knight
  • A&A Pretty Pets
  • Alexanders Market
  • Almond Sisters Bakery
  • Arches Saloon
  • Basil 1791
  • Bee Driving School
  • Benison Event Center
  • BEYOUTIFUL Salon Barber Spa
  • Blank Space
  • Casual Pint Hamilton
  • Chubby Bunny Bakery
  • Drink Tavern
  • Elite Performance & Wellness
  • Fleurish Home
  • Fretboard Brewing & Public House
  • Front Room on 7th
  • Future Great Comics
  • Future Great Wrestling
  • Hamilton Diner
  • High Street Cafe
  • Hip Boutique
  • Hydes Restaurant
  • Immortal Fitness
  • InsideOut Studio
  • JAG Sporting Goods
  • Kensho Karate
  • Lee's The Salon
  • Little Nail Shop
  • Lounge 24
  • Made To Love
  • Main Look
  • Main Street Vinyl
  • Milillo's Pizza
  • Municipal Brew Works
  • Neals BBQ
  • Petals & Wicks
  • Pfefferle Tire & Auto
  • Renaissance Fine Arts Supplies & Framing
  • Revive Salon
  • reZen Mind Body Spirit
  • Rib City
  • Richards Pizza
  • Roll On In
  • Rustic Home
  • Salon Lex
  • Sara's House
  • Scattering Joy Craft Boutique
  • Scripted Studio
  • Secretly Shabby
  • Selah Studio Skin & Hair
  • SJB Home Decor Outlet
  • Strauss Gift Shop
  • Tanfastic Tan
  • Tano Bistro
  • Toni's Hair Salon
  • True West Coffee
  • Two Little Buds
  • Unsung Salvage
  • Village Parlor Hamilton
  • Wildfire Home & Gift

About the Author