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Virtual shopping site offers urges gift card purchases to help Pittsfield businesses

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PITTSFIELD — Itching to go shopping? Missing friends behind the sales counter?

Fret not. Virtual shopping that will benefit local businesses right now — and allow a nice shopping trip some time down the line — is here.

With most downtown shops closed and shoppers hunkering down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Downtown Pittsfield Inc. is offering shoppers a good way to help support the local businesses.

The organization on March 24 launched an online store where the public can purchase gift cards in the amount of $25, $50 or $100 to local restaurants, retailers and cultural organizations for themselves, a friend or relative.

More than 40 businesses are selling gift cards through the new online store.

Across the country and around the world, the coronavirus has put small businesses at severe risk of closing, and the same is true in Pittsfield.

"This is a dangerous time for them," said Cheryl Mirer, executive director of Downtown Pittsfield. "There could be some businesses that won't come back from this — we could lose some of them. It's vitally important that we step up."

And while the gift card campaign by itself might not solve the problem, "recovering will be more difficult without the gift cards," she said. "These businesses are really depending on the support of their patrons to keep them whole."

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The businesses enrolled in the gift card store include places like Carr Hardware, Beacon Cinema, Berkshire Humane Society, The Lantern, Pancho's Mexican Restaurant, RJ Stohr Diamonds & Fine Jewelry and Wandering Star Brewery.

"I think it's great that the organization who's our biggest collaborator is out there doing what they can to get us through this," said Bart Raser, president of Carr Hardware.

Raser said a number of gift cards have already been purchased, but none redeemed as of yet.

"They haven't come out yet, but they will," he said.

Unlike many downtown retailers, Carr Hardware has kept its doors open because it is deemed an "essential" business under Gov. Charlie Baker's emergency order.

The store is strictly controlling how many people are in the stores, and providing curbside pickup and delivery.

Raser noted that business is holding steady for now.

"It's been brisk," he said, "but a different kind of brisk than in normal times."

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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