Purchases of gift cards at businesses in West Hartford Center will be matched, with a donation given to healthcare workers at three area hospitals as part of the ‘Support Our Center’ initiative.
By Ronni Newton
Conditions have been far from “business as usual” in West Hartford Center since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and while many of the restaurants remain open for take-out, and some retailers are operating through online sales and curbside pick-up, most are struggling amid the restrictions.
Organizers of the “Support Our Center” campaign are hoping to not only help those local businesses by bringing revenue, but will also be matching funds as a thank you to frontline healthcare workers at local hospitals.
“Through no fault of their own, it’s heartbreaking what’s happened to our Center,” said Keith Guerraz, one of the managing partners of LaSalle Road Partners, which owns of many of the buildings on the east side of LaSalle Road as well as several Farmington Avenue properties.
“We’re trying to do any little thing we can to help them through this. We’re all in the same boat,” he said.
Guerraz said LaSalle Road Parters was initially was trying to think of ways to help their own tenants, and felt compelled to do something to support the survival of the West Hartford Center everyone loves. “We really want to see this become a bigger platform, to help these small businesses.”
Heather Cisz of Linked Media, which has an office at 62 LaSalle Rd., has been helping her landlord not only boost sales for their own tenants, about 15 of which are storefront operations, but also involved other West Hartford Center Business Association members in “Save Our Center,” a united campaign that also expresses gratitude to those who put their lives on the line.
Beginning immediately and running through May 10, LaSalle Road Partners and the West Hartford Center Business Association will be matching the value of gift cards purchased for future use, from participating businesses (listed on the Support Our Center website) up to a total of $10,500.
In turn, gift cards worth up to $10,500 will be donated to frontline workers at UConn Health Center, Hartford Hospital, and Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center.
“We are really excited about the Support Our Center initiative,” said Kimberly Mattson Moster, owner of Kimberly Boutique and kimberlyGift at 968 Farmington Ave. “What a great way for us to give back to these frontline medical workers while promoting the small businesses in the Center at the same time.”
Mattson Moster said so many loyal clients have said they are worried about her store and other small businesses. “They want the Center to be here when this is over,” she said.
“I’m glad to be a part of it,” said Billy Grant, owner of Restaurant Bricco at 78 LaSalle Rd.
While Bricco remains open for takeout, Grant said they can only bring in a limited amount of revenue in the four hours a day they are open, but at the same time he is always looking for ways to give back to others who are in need. “I’m all about that,” he said of the Support Our Center initiative which should not only boost business locally but also help healthcare workers.
“This gift card program is a true win-win,” said Mattson Moster. “Clients have an easy way to support us, front line medical workers get the thanks they deserve, and in my case when I am allowed to open Kimberly Boutique they can bring those gift cards in – I will be having a major sale!”
Some of the businesses didn’t have a mechanism in place for online gift card sales, but using Square, Linked Media was able to create the ability for those businesses to be involved in the campaign, Cisz said.
“For decades, West Hartford Center has been the heartbeat of West Hartford, a gathering place for all of its residents and a welcoming environment for its many visitors. It is our hope that the Support Our Center initiative will be a unifying experience for everyone, built around a unique opportunity to thank all the local health care workers who bravely risk their own safety to save lives and protect others,” said Dan Joseph, also a managing partner of LaSalle Road Partners.
“We will still be able to help our tenants when business is down,” said Guerraz. “But we also want to reward those on the front lines.” This campaign is for the tenants and the community as a whole.
“We would love to come out of this with every tenant in place, and thriving,” Guerraz said, and have the vibrancy that West Hartford Center is known for return as soon as it’s safe to do so.
While many members of the community are suffering economic hardships Cisz hopes that those who are in a position to purchase gift cards will do it at this time when the purchase can have a great impact. “If you know you will be getting your hair done, shopping at your favorite store once normalcy resumes …” she said, please consider purchasing a gift card for future use.
The specialty gift cards, which are being sold electronically, feature a vintage West Hartford Center image. More information, including a list of participating businesses, is available at www.SupportOurCenter.com. More information is also available on the Support Our Center Facebook page.
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