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A coupon book offering discounts at Hilton Head Island restaurants and a website promoting businesses in downtown Beaufort and Port Royal represent the latest attempts to lure Lowcountry diners and shoppers away from big-box retailers and chain restaurants and into locally owned shops and eateries.
Reilley's Grill & Bar, Hilton Head Brewing Company, The Crazy Crab and Catch 22 are among nearly a dozen restaurants participating in the Buy Local HHI initiative launched in late November by Brendan and Jill Reilley, who are partners in Aunt Chiladas Easy Street Cafe, Reilley's Grill & Bar and The Boardroom.
The coupon book, which is valid through the end of February, was conceived as a way to promote local businesses during the winter, a period when business typically lags on the island, Brendan Reilley said.
"We wanted to do something for these local businesses and also reward our year-round customers," Reilley said. "We've had a huge response, and it's been good for business. The money (being spent) stays right here on the island. My waitstaff is spending money at other local businesses and so on so it helps everyone."
Around the same time the coupon book was released, Picklejuice Productions, a
locally owned Web design firm, launched Shop Local Beaufort, a website aimed at promoting shops and restaurants in Beaufort and Port Royal. The site, which was aimed mostly at holiday spending, features gift ideas from local vendors and research on shopping local.
"We really wanted to do something to give back to the community," said Ginger Wareham, who co-owns Picklejuice with husband Will. "As a small, family-owned business, we understand the importance of keeping it in town. We really wanted to help educate people about the importance of shopping local and what it means to the community."
The recent campaigns are just the latest attempts by local businessowners to try to get area residents to think more about shopping and dining locally and the broad, mostly positive economic impacts that researchers say accompanies such spending.
In August, posters reading "Love Bluffton, Buy Local" began springing up in the windows of dozens of Bluffton restaurants and shops as part of a campaign started by The Corner Perk owner and Bluffton native Josh Cooke.
Cooke said the campaign has unified many local businesses and more than 500 new posters will be soon be hitting the streets.
"I think everyone has really come to understand that this is best for everyone," Cooke said. "We're not doing this to promote any one business or to tell something, we're really just doing this for the town as a whole."
Cooke added that he would like to launch a Bluffton-geared smartphone app that rewards residents for patronizing local businesses.
"The idea would be that if someone checks in so many times at businesses around town then we send them a free T-shirt or something," Cooke said. "It's just a community loyalty thing."
Proponents of the "buy local" movement cite research by economists suggesting money spent at local boutiques, restaurants and other businesses are more likely to stay in the community than money spent at retail chains and restaurants.
For every $100 spent at an independently owned businesses, about $45 remains in the local economy, compared with about $13 per $100 spent at a retail chain, according to research by the nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Austin, Texas, consulting firm Civic Economics.
The result, advocates say, is a more vibrant local economy and more jobs.
"I'm in the coffee business so if I get my coffee from local roasters then those businesses are more likely to spend their money in the community," Cooke said. "By shopping local, you are supporting a lot of middle-class people and not CEOs and stockholders."