CATSKILL — The village’s economic development corporation launched a new website Tuesday to support local businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.
The website, called the Village of Catskill Cares, streamlines gift card purchases for village businesses, provides a directory for local businesses so customers can easily get in touch with them and has a resource page for businesses to learn more about aid options.
Catskill Local Development Corporation member Hudson Talbott came up with the concept, saying there should be an easier way for residents to purchase gift cards.
“I got the idea, wouldn’t it be better to do it in a more collective way and give everybody access to one central website that had information with how to help village businesses, as well as list all of their websites, so you could see what they have, see who is still open,” Talbott said. Gift cards are a useful way to help businesses get through hard times, he said.
“It’s a great way to help,” Talbott said. “They need the money now. It’s not a gift, it’s not a handout. It’s a gift card. You will be able to redeem it later.”
The website also features information on how to apply for COVID-19 relief funding.
“It’s a little bit complicated,” Talbott said, referring to the application process. “It’s there and available so our businesses should apply for it. We have a page dedicated to who is eligible and how to apply for it. We want to help people to find their way and direct them.”
The LDC does not want to see a decline in the recent progress of the village, Talbott said.
“We just want to help the village,” he said. “So many great businesses have opened up on Main Street and West Bridge Street in last four to five years. Catskill has been in a great upswing. We don’t want to lose any of that momentum during this crisis.”
All proceeds go to helping the businesses, CLDC President Joseph Kozloski said.
“You can purchase gift cards for businesses that are open or ones that will be open again to help support them once this is all done with. Hudson and Vinny [Village President Vincent Seeley] have spearheaded that part of our program. It goes in 20 denominations. All proceeds you give for the gift card will go directly toward the business. The LDC will take care of all the transaction fees on our end so the business gets 100% of the money.”
Since the website went live, three people have purchased gift cards for two different businesses, Kozloski said.
“We hope we can have more sustainability with businesses and they will be here for the future,” he said.
The website is just one route the village is taking to support local businesses during the crisis, Seeley said.
“We hold a daily open conference call for businesses to join and request help or to offer up their experiences in navigating and planning for the short- and long-term future,” Seeley said.
Some businesses are teaming up to come up with creative new marketing techniques.
“La Conca Doro has added a dinner and a mystery book to their menu,” Seeley said. “You purchase a meal and add a mystery book from Magpie Bookshop for $7. How about a dinner, candle and wine glasses? The restaurant is already delivering to residents’ homes, why not bring the other products to them? There are countless opportunities to keep this going even after we are back to normal.”
Seeley believes the village will come out of these challenging times stronger.
“On the backside of this we will come out stronger and more adaptable to change,” he said. “I have watched local small businesses change their core operating model in a matter of two weeks to meet our temporary new way of life. I am most interested in the new business opportunities that will be spawned; we need to get in front of those. For example, many companies have deployed their workforce remotely and it is successful. I see more companies adapting at least some of their workforce to this model. It is cheaper, more flexible and offers the employee the benefit of more time for family and personal life.”
Seeley predicted the local economy will be resilient.
“Our economy will rebound quickly, especially in Catskill,” he said. “Besides the influx of money due to the $2 trillion stimulus package, we will see more and more people wanting to be part of our upstate community. We have built a culture here that is business- and family-friendly, attractive, creative and forward-thinking.”
The LDC plans to keep the website going beyond the public-health crisis, Talbott said.
“There’s a real need for a source of information pertinent to everybody who lives in our community,” he said. “It has been a source of strength and encouragement. So many people have thanked us already and are grateful we’re doing it.”
On the county level, both Greene and Columbia counties have taken steps to support their local businesses.
The Greene County Chamber of Commerce has extended its Take-out Week through April 19.
The Greene County Economic Development Corporation created a website to support local businesses offering take-out and delivery services.
The Columbia Economic Development Corporation has partnered with the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, Hudson Business Coalition and Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation to establish a small business loan fund.
“While this program is designed to help as many businesses as possible, funds will be limited,” he said.
Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation has set up a second fund to support nonprofit organizations in Columbia County that provide services to those in need.