by April Lisante The street is ghostly by day and at night. Pedestrians are few and far between, and the daily hustle and bustle that make Germantown Avenue hum have been absent for nearly four …
by April Lisante
The street is ghostly by day and at night. Pedestrians are few and far between, and the daily hustle and bustle that make Germantown Avenue hum have been absent for nearly four weeks.
But the Hill is loyal to its businesses and their owners, and commerce continues to thrive in this little city corridor, from pizza to pilates, and from crafts to candies. As our region enters a fourth week adjusting to a new way of life, some businesses have opted to close, but those that remain open are still very much alive and kicking, thanks to local support.
At Campbell’s Place, the kitchen is a flurry of activity, with take-out deliveries and dozens upon dozens of meals being crafted each day for hospital workers and those in need.
At Zipf’s, Easter candy is still as easy as a phone call and a delivery away.
And at Dance Fit, just off the Avenue, instructors are streaming classes to dozens of customers, both new and old.
These businesses are still open thanks to locals who responded positively to retail efforts launched three weeks ago on the Chestnut Hill Business District Web site. Dubbed “#supportlocalsafely,”customers clicked a COVID-19 banner to see how they could help support local shops through home delivery, take-out and more. The effort has kept several businesses open through the chaos of this unprecedented pandemic.
Now, in order to maintain the momentum, the Chestnut Hill Business District is spearheading a second stage of its campaign. Starting on Monday April 13 and continuing throughout that week, the Chestnut Hill Business District will launch “Keep It On The Hill,” an effort to funnel even more business to local shops through Web traffic, delivery orders, online streaming services and even gift card purchases. Nearly 50 local businesses are participating in the effort, hoping to stay afloat and perhaps even thrive during this time of economic uncertainty and disaster.
“We wanted to move to the next stage,” said Philip Dawson, executive director of the Chestnut Hill Business District. “A week ago, retailers came to us and said ‘Can we do another round of something?’
“So we are gift cards, streaming content…if they have a service type of business that does lend itself to an online purchase, we will be doing this the entire week of April 13, and we will put out things to drive people to the online businesses.”
The Business District will get the word out on its website, chestnuthillpa.com, as well as on Facebook and through local advertising, helping link customers to local businesses who may have online cooking demos or fitness classes, sell goods on Etsy or take phone orders for take-out and deliveries. Gift cards will also be available at many of the businesses, a surefire way to show monetary support while having something tangible to use when stores reopen.
“I think it will help a lot,” said Dawson. “We are seeing a lot of businesses getting creative and thinking of everything they can to keep income coming in.”
At DanceFit on Bethlehem Pike, owner Bria Moss-Wilkerson closed down her studio on March 10 almost simultaneously with Governor Wolf’s executive order to shutter all non-essential businesses in Pennsylvania. The following day, she’d begun streaming her popular dance fitness classes on Zoom for $8 per class. The at-home classes have been so successful, she’s reached customers as far away as California, thanks to locals who shared her studio’s online link. Starting April 13, the Business District will also be linking to her Web site dancefitex.com.
“I think it will be extremely helpful,” said Moss-Wilkerson, who is also the vice president of the Chestnut Hill Business Association and a board member of the Chestnut Hill Community Development Corporation. “This is such a tough time, and you have to find light in the darkness. This way, by streaming, we can reach people we also wouldn’t normally have or were afraid to come into the studio.”
McNally’s owner Meg McNally will participate as well in the promotion, manning the phones at McNally’s from noon to 5 p.m.. from Monday, April 13 through Friday, April 17, to take orders for gift cards.
“We are calling it ‘distant dining’,” said McNally. “Purchasing a gift certificate so that in the not-too-distant future, you will be back dining with us at McNally’s.”
And at Campbell’s Place, which has been buzzing with activity for the past few weeks, owner Vanessa Mullen is on board for this next “Keep It On The Hill” promotion. She has been getting the word out since mid-March that the restaurant is still open for take-out, with a family-friendly menu, and her kitchen staff has been making dozens of meals for those in need and those on the front lines in local hospitals, thanks to local contributions.
She has links on her Web site campbellsplace.com, for everything from gift cards to charitable meals. The Business District will mirror her links as well.
“We will serve those in need meals no questions asked,” Mullen said. “We have been able to produce meals, and keep our staff employed and do good for the community.”
For more information and a list of participating businesses, go to www.chestnuthillpa.com/covid-19.