Salon Ten 0 Seven owner Dereama Allenbaugh doesn’t know who the many people are who bought gift cards earlier this month during an online sales blitz for downtown Hays merchants.
Organized and hosted by the Downtown Hays Development Corp., the marketing event generated $43,000 in gift card sales in three-and-a-half days, including for Salon Ten 0 Seven, 1007 Main.
“I thank them, whoever they were, that has faith in the downtown businesses, and were willing to support us, in a trying time,” Allenbaugh said Thursday morning, her front doors locked, the lights off, and a skeleton crew of two in face masks calling customers to rebook appointments. “We greatly appreciate their support.”
Forty downtown businesses participated, said Sara Bloom, executive director of the nonprofit Downtown Hays Development business organization.
Those sales mean cash flow for the temporarily closed stores along Main and its side streets, which make up the historic Chestnut Street District. With utilities and vendors to pay, Allenbaugh said, businesses are biding their time, even longer now with Gov. Laura Kelly’s announcement Wednesday to extend the stay-at-home order through May 3.
The only bank downtown, Astra Bank at 1100 Fort, donated almost $15,000 to the DHDC gift card program, Bloom said, making it possible to offer $10 bonus gift cards with the purchase of every $25 gift card. Bonus cards can be redeemed at Walmart, Dillons or for chamber cheques.
Every little bit, every sale, counts, Allenbaugh said.
“One day everything is normal, and the next day you’re locking your doors and you’re trying to do the right thing for the community and your employees, and boy what a horrible position you’re put into,” she said. “I thought it was just a really generous offering from Astra Bank and from people that live in our community.”
Astra has been a big supporter of the downtown businesses and DHDC, Bloom said. “We were blown away by their generosity.”
To carry out the program, DHDC created an online storefront, Downtownhays.com/downtowntogether, with each store’s logo, website and business information. Customers made purchases through DHDC, which tracked the bonus cards, handled gift card mailing, and bore the cost of postage and credit card fees.
“We anticipated it going for a month or two months,” Bloom said. “We launched it on April 1 and it was highly successful. It generated over $24,000 in sales for our downtown businesses within the first 24 hours.”
The program ran out of bonus cards in four days, she said, despite getting additional ones from Walmart, which donated $1,000 in gift cards, and Commerce Bank, which donated $1,500.
Heartland Community Foundation gave $1,500 to offset DHDC’s program costs.
The gift card sales mean a lot to the owners and staff of Gutch’s, said Stefani Yeager, general manager.
The restaurant temporarily closed its doors March 21, as foot traffic dwindled. The gift card sales represent community support, she said.
“It was fantastic,” said Yeager. “Being a small business like we are in downtown Hays, we’re down here in the middle of a bunch of one-ways. So we’re kind of hard to get to and off the beaten path. So we have a very small staff. To know that the community is supporting us, so that we can support them and keep these amazing kids that we have working for us, is awesome.”
Gutch’s has served customers at 111 W. 7th going on 16 years, Yeager said, noting the gift-card response lends businesses hope. For now, she said, Gutch’s communicates with its customers through Facebook.
”It was not an easy decision closing the doors for a temporary amount of time,” said Yeager. “As we get through this whole thing, it’s our goal and our hope to come back strong.”
Online sales of the gift cards continues, Bloom said, but there are no bonus cards at this time.
Salon Ten 0 Seven continues to sell its hair products on the DHDC site, as well as on its own website.
The pandemic is more challenging than the 2008 banking and housing downturn, Allenbaugh said.
She opened Salon Ten 0 Seven 18 years ago, first restoring the old historic building, which had no roof and only pigeons as tenants. Nearly two decades on, downtown has blossomed with new storefronts.
“When I bought this building it was open to the birds and the downtown was in a shambles. These buildings hadn’t been occupied in who knows how long,” Allenbaugh said. “It was a huge leap of faith that the community was going to support us … We’ve all kind of stuck our necks out … It’s really sad to see us all trying to grab on to a life preserver and hang on and not go down, not be a Titanic. We don’t want to go down, we want to hang on, and I’m sure that we will. We’re going to do our very best to survive.”
The salon will reopen when the stay-at-home-order lifts, under whatever guidelines necessary to keep staff and customers safe, she said, meanwhile thankful for the online customers.
“Everyone’s good wishes, and everyone’s good thoughts and continued support is very important,” she said.
When things do open back up, it’s hard to say how fast business will return.
“I hope it will be brisk,” Allenbaugh said. “Whatever our new normal is will be our new normal, and we’ll be doing the best that we can with the cards that we’re dealt.”