Third Street Tavern St. Peter

Restaurants, shops and other small businesses in St. Peter have seen a smaller than usual traffic flow during the COVID-19 pandemic, even after state restrictions loosened. (Herald file photo)

The St. Peter Area Chamber of Commerce wants to help the business community get customers back, and it now has some extra funds to do so.

The St. Peter Economic Development Authority and St. Peter City Council both approved a resolution to provide $10,000, from the EDA’s revolving loan fund, to the Chamber for the purpose of marketing. The dollars will be used to pay for advertising through a number of local media outlets. The campaign will remind St. Peter area residents that businesses in the community are open, and it’s safe to patronize them.

“We want to combine the ‘Stop the spread’ message with the ‘Economy needs us all’ message,” said Chamber Executive Director Ed Lee. “And even the governor’s administration is saying we need that balance, so we’re right in line with that.”

He added, “I will say that safety is the top priority. But there are customers downtown and around St. Peter, but there aren’t enough. We could accommodate more customers safely in our stores, and even in our bars and restaurants and all that. This money is to really encourage safe shopping, safe dining. And not to say ‘Splash on in’ but just to get back out and know there is a lot of space in these stores. There is as much distancing opportunity as there is with big box or larger commercial spaces.”

After discussing the merits of the marketing campaign, both the EDA and the City Council voted unanimously to approve the funds.

The advertising program will include print and online ads through local newspapers, broadcast TV ads on the local news channel, and broadcast radio ads on several local stations. The Chamber will also lead a social media campaign, specifically on Facebook, targeting potential customers.

“The people who feel safe and comfortable sheltering in place right now, we’re honoring and respecting that,” Lee said. “The ones we’re targeting are the ones who do not have underlying health conditions and the ones who are going to be in grocery stores, big box stores, hardware stores anyway. It’s the ones who are out and about.”

No different than most places across the state and country during the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Peter businesses have struggled to remain stable, nonetheless profitable, while residents have been encouraged to limit contact with one another and stay home. The most recent messaging from the state, though, is that it’s OK to venture out, especially in one’s own community, as long as everyone makes an effort to protect themselves and others from the spread.

Where St. Peter stands out at a time like this, according to Lee, is the attitude of its people and its business leaders.

“There aren’t any stricter mandates in St. Peter than anywhere else, but the owners are very responsible,” Lee said. “And they are taking so many precautions to keep themselves safe, their families safe, and their employees safe. And they really, really want to keep customers safe, too. They’re just taking those extra steps, cleaning spaces, wiping down surfaces.”

So the marketing, while not having the goal of creating a rush of consumers into town, is intended to gradually increase traffic flow in the cities shops, restaurants, bars, etc.

“I think it just turns up that trickle,” Lee said. “Right now, the flow of shoppers is just a trickle, and if we just turn that up a little bit, and we think, ‘What if we increase it by 10% or 20%?’, it just adds revenue and makes businesses more able to float in these choppy waters.”

Reach Editor Philip Weyhe at 507-931-8567 or follow him on Twitter @EditorPhilipWeyhe. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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