Posters declaring "Celebrate Independents Week!" greeted customers of local stores in Tampa, Florida, during the week of July 4th. "As we celebrate our nation’s independence, we invite you to join us in celebrating our great local independents," the posters read.
Independents Week was conceived by Carla Jimenez, co-owner of Inkwood Books. For several years, Inkwood has used Independence Day as an opportunity to remind customers of the importance of locally owned businesses to the community. "At the last minute this year, I decided to see if other local businesses wanted to get involved," explains Jimenez.
She called around and seventeen businesses agreed to sign-on. They included a record store, hardware dealer, several restaurants, a natural foods store, and a print shop. In addition to displaying the posters and talking to customers, each business held a drawing at the end of the week, where customers could win $60 in gift certificates for the other participating businesses.
They also sent out a press release. The Tampa Tribune responded with extensive coverage on the front page of the metro section. The local Fox affiliate decided to broadcast its morning news show from a different independent business every day that week.
"The key was that it was so simple. There were no meetings and very little time involved," says Jimenez, who has long wanted to organize the community’s local retailers for joint promotional and educational events, but has never found the time. Based on comments from her own customers, she says, "It was definitely worth it."
The seventeen merchants plan to get together in August to discuss the response to Independents Week and perhaps plan another event for the fall. Jimenez hopes this will lay the foundation for further collaboration and a permanent association down the road.