Oakland Gift Card Program Will Help Small Businesses Make it Through the Holidays | Sponsored | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Oakland Gift Card Program Will Help Small Businesses Make it Through the Holidays

Still set against the (all too familiar) backdrop of the public health crisis, many small business owners and employees look to the winter ahead with trepidation. Memories of shorter hours, forced layoffs, seasonal closures, and shuttered storefronts (we miss you, “The O”) are still fresh as they closely monitor which direction case counts are trending each week.

Not all news was bad news for businesses this past year, of course. Those who were able to adapt to operational restrictions brought on by the pandemic now have a wealth of new experience under their belt. And as vaccines were released and case counts waned last spring, many opportunistic, well-funded entrepreneurs took the opportunity to expand operations. Some started new businesses entirely. But with early economic relief and stimulus programs long since expired, every small business once again finds itself counting on their communities alone for support as they prepare for just about anything that could lie ahead this winter.

For starters, the reintroduction of operational restrictions is always a possibility should coronavirus cases spike again. But it's new problems like rising inflation, increased operating costs, supply chain issues, limited cash reserves, and workforce shortages that all present their own challenges this year.

So to give people an easy way to support the businesses they love — and provide an incentive to do so! — the Oakland Business Improvement District (OBID) reignited their Shop2Help Oakland Gift Card Program which offers a 40% bonus incentive. Customers who spend $25 will receive a $35 gift card to many Oakland restaurants, bars, cafes, retail shops, salons, pharmacies, and more.

And since giving is a two-way street, the central Oakland business community is giving back by donating a portion of every sale to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. To date, they have donated 34,225 meals through the food bank — a number they hope to triple before year end — because with rising food and fuel costs everywhere you look, the food bank needs our support perhaps now more than ever.

“The Shop2Help Oakland program demonstrates the raw power of shopping small and shopping local. You can see how every dollar immediately goes to work right here in Oakland helping our business community endure the unexpected challenges they face every week. And as our local economy thrives, it is truly a blessing that we’re then able to touch the lives of so many others who are struggling with food insecurity thanks to the efforts of our friends at the food bank,” said OBID Executive Director, Georgia Petropoulos.

The program’s participants grew this month with the addition of two new restaurants (Viva Los Tacos! and Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop, both located where the iconic “O” once stood at the corner of Forbes & S. Bouquet), adding to a long list of the region’s favorite restaurants, bars, cafes, snack stops, ice cream parlors, retail shops, opticians, and pharmacies. (oaklandpittsburgh.com)
Gift cards are the perfect stocking stuffer for anyone who lives, works, or goes to school in Oakland, but your gift-giving strength really starts to add up when buying multiple gift cards at once (as long as they’re in stock, there is no limit per customer.) Gift cards can be purchased online at www.Shop2Help.org. Mix and match, combine in a single order, and they’ll be sent to you by mail. Or you can choose to pick-up in person at designated times.

Our recommendations? Use the 40% bonus to stretch your holiday shopping budget at gift shops like Maggie & Stella’s Cards & Gifts or The Pitt Shop. Put them to use when checking out at woman-owned Hieber’s Pharmacy. Get ready for the holidays with a fresh cut and color at Salvatore Puccini Hair Design or try out new eyeglasses from Medical Center Opticians. Take the family out for dinner and dessert, treat the team to lunch, or pick up the tab after your next night out with friends. Needless to say, there are a lot of great options in Oakland!

Visit Shop2Help.org for complete details, but in a nutshell:
  1. You spend $25, you get $35. That’s a no-brainer.
  2. That $35 stays local and immediately goes to work helping small business owners, their employees, and their families.
  3. Your generosity goes even further through a 25-meal donation to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank with every $25 spent.

So whether you live, work, attend school, or pass through Oakland (or you want to give a gift that’s sure to please to someone who does), head over to www.Shop2Help.org to take advantage of the 40% gift card bonus. Made possible in part through a $160,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation awarded to OBID last year to fund a multi-prong effort to help Oakland businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic, the program ends on December 31 or earlier when inventory sells out.