Downtown Dollars launched in St. Stephen

Andrew Sutton/Courier Heather Donahue, of Downtown St. Stephen, and Tara Cleghorn, of the St. Stephen Chamber of Commerce hold Downtown St. Stephen Dollars, which are launching along with the Shop Local Festival on Friday, August 23. The Dollars, which will act like gift certificates to businesses within the BIA are available for purchase at the Downtown St. Stephen offices at 120 Milltown Bldv.

St. Stephen – On Friday, August 23, the Town of St. Stephen, the Chamber of Commerce, and Downtown St. Stephen have partnered to encourage all who live in St. Stephen to think about how they spend their money, and to shop local.

Tara Cleghorn, with the St. Stephen Chamber of Commerce, said that on Friday, local participating businesses will be doing in store specials, sidewalk sales, and events in support of the Shop Local Festival.

They will also be reviving the Shop Local Passport, which first saw light during a Christmas promotion last year. Heather Donahue, with Downtown St. Stephen, said, “Patrons can visit five businesses to make a purchase, and then get a signature.”

“Once the passport is filled out,” Donahue added, “they can drop it off at the (Garcelon) civic centre. And then we’re going to draw a grand prize winner.” All of the participating businesses have donated an item or a gift card for the grand prize, which was drawn at the Saint John Sea Dogs vs the Halifax Mooseheads hockey game at the Garcelon Civic Center at 7 p.m. on Friday night.

During the day on Friday, there will be live entertainment and games for kids at the David Alison Ganong Chocolate Park, including Nick Gay who will be performing from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., followed by the Richard Sisters from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Puny Human has provided some large format outdoor games for children, and the IWK will be on hand with with cotton candy, popcorn, and a plinko game. Donahue said the festival in the Chocolate Park will coincide with the St. Stephen Farmers Market, and so there should be plenty of people downtown who will want to take part.

On Friday, Downtown St. Stephen will also be launching their Downtown Dollars. Donahue said the Downtown Dollars are “Universal gift certificates that can be used just like cash at our participating businesses.”

They will be available year round for the public to purchase, and make great gifts for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, and other events. The Downtown Dollars allow the recipient to choose multiple locations to use their gift, anywhere within the Business Improvement Area (BIA).

The BIA was established in 1982 when the provincial government, concerned business people, and community leaders saw a need for communities to be focused and competitive. A structure allowing the downtown cores to be defined as Business Improvement Area was put in place in May of 1984, and is now commonly referred to as Downtown St. Stephen.

The BIA encompasses businesses along Milltown Blvd. eastward from Watson Street (215 Milltown Blvd., St. Stephen) up to and including Budd Ave., the adjacent waterfront area and ending at 99 King Street.

Donahue said, “Our goal at Downtown St. Stephen is sustaining a vibrant and viable downtown, and the main reason for the Downtown Dollars is that we want our money to stay in our community.”

Much has been said about the importance of local economies, and for good reason. With the death of Main Street brought about by large shopping centers, many communities have turned to these places for their daily needs. It’s true the economics of vertical integration make it difficult for small businesses to compete on price, but the social cost of the destruction of local economies is not factored into that price. Robust local economies need local job creators who are invested not just in a business but in the success of the larger community.

Supporting local business by buying from them slows the drain of money from local economies and shows small businesses that there is a market for new business. Shopping local is one of the best things that a citizen can do to ensure the vital flourishing of a place.

Downtown St. Stephen Dollars can be purchased by at the Downtown St. Stephen office at 120 Milltown Blvd. For more information please check out their webpage at And be sure to visit the St. Stephen Community Spirit Facebook page for complete details on the Shop Local Festival, and to take part in the giveaways.