Gathering inspiration from the Sears Wish Book, an annual catalog published by the former retail giant, Hollister resident Mia Casey created her own version highlighting local businesses.
The wish book contains information about 30 to 40 businesses from all parts of San Benito County, ranging from eateries to arts and retail. The book also includes promotions for various businesses and a directory.
With COVID-19 now spreading more quickly through the county than ever—even as California placed San Benito County under a regional stay-at-home order on Dec. 6 restricting retail businesses from operating indoors—Casey said her wish book is an effort to help struggling businesses stay afloat.
As of Dec. 23, 3,171 people in San Benito County have tested positive for COVID-19 since February; 2,529 patients have recovered, 616 are active and 26 have died.
Casey said the idea for the wish book came about during a meeting with Economic Development Corporation of San Benito County Executive Director Marc Fontes, in which he proposed that she do a shop local campaign.
“I just remember when I was a kid the Sears Wish Book and how much fun it was to look through that and I thought that might be a neat way for people to get introduce to local businesses that they might not know exists in the county, and it might help the businesses get more customers checking them out,” Casey said.
Fontes said ultimately he hopes the wish book is the first step to promote local businesses and increase sales and tax revenue.
“It’s a way to promote local businesses and to remind folks in the county of the various wonderful businesses that are literally in their backyard,” Fontes said.
Casey, president of San Benito County Citizens for a Brighter Future, worked 14-hour days for almost two weeks in order to put the wish book together. She said other members of the nonprofit group also spent considerable time reaching out to interested businesses.
The Garden Mart is one participating business, offering a 10% discount with the mention of the wish book. Owner Marci Huston, who also owns the GardenShoppe located on Seventh Street in Hollister, said the wish book was a brilliant idea.
“People need to realize that they really can have a huge impact on whether a business stays open or has to close, especially during the shutdown,” Huston said.
She also said the advertising campaign was important to her, as she doesn’t have a marketing department.
“I’m a one-woman show,” she said.
Even if just one business catches the attention of a potential customer, Huston said other surrounding businesses benefit because more times than not that customer will stroll around downtown.
Casey said given the short period they had available to put the wish book together, she was happy with the result.
“It was really cool that we were able to get as many as we could and that they were from everywhere,” she said, adding that businesses from Aromas, San Juan Bautista, Hollister, Tres Pinos and Paicines participated. “I liked that we got a little bit of everywhere.”
A Facebook advertising campaign, which ended this week, reached 20,000 people and had close to 2,000 engagements.
“It was successful considering the timing,” Casey said. “If we had more time to get more involvement we might have gotten further and maybe next year we’ll be able to do it bigger.”
Looking to continue the effort into next year’s holiday season, Casey said Citizens for a Brighter Future might collaborate with the Economic Development Corporation to continue the wish book, or come up with another way to get people to shop locally.
“It was definitely a lot of work, but definitely worth doing,” Casey said.
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