| Danielle Eaton
AGAWAM – An Agawam man is bringing people together to support local businesses during what has become a difficult time for small business owners across the country.
Michael Perry, who is self-employed, said when Gov. Charlie Baker first announced the guidelines around restaurant and bar restrictions his first concern was for small business owners. “To take a small business, who typically are going to operate on a pretty tight margin, [and say] that you have to close your doors, it’s virtually a death sentence except for well-established businesses with a loyal customer base,” he explained.
Perry said he “saw the handwriting on the wall” and was worried Agawam, a town that “thrives” on small businesses, was “going to lose a significant portion of our small business market.”
From there, he began thinking of ways he could help drive customers toward small business during this difficult time and make money to pay their bills. On March 17, Perry announced via social media that, in an effort to support Agawam area businesses, he had purchased two $25 gift cards to Agawam’s Java Stop and would be raffling them off on March 21 to those who donated. He asked people to donate $2 or more if they were able to, and those who did were entered into a random drawing that took place live on Facebook.
By purchasing gift cards, he explained, it would “inject cash immediately” into the business.
Perry said the money donated would be used to continue to purchase gift cards from other local businesses where he would continue to raffle them off for a donation. He said he hopes his “$50 investment turns into $100 or $200” so he can continue to support local businesses. However, ultimately, he said the goal was not to just give the businesses money, but “to drive people to your store, put a face and name on the business.”
“If they go and buy a $3 coffee and lots of other people are doing it too, nobody is financially straining themselves and we can support a local business,” he explained.
In less than 24 hours his plan had seemed to work, as he’d gotten enough donations to buy a gift card from another business, and said when he drove past Java Stop the following morning there was a “line out the door that would make the governor nervous.”
He said while he wasn’t sure where he would purchase the next round of gift cards from, he wants to keep the money local. “For now I’m keeping it to my town and surrounding towns, if we can keep it going,” he said.
Perry added that it wasn’t just food and beverage establishments that he would purchase gift cards from, but other small businesses as well. “It's not just limited to restaurants, [but] small businesses where the owner shows up every day and is behind the counter,” he said.
“The greater point here is to shed light on his business. If I can help him increase his customers by 20 percent that’s going to be more valuable,” said Perry.
Those interested in donating can do so by sending money via Venmo at Michael-Perry-158. Those who may want to donate in a different way can reach Perry at MikeP7394@yahoo.com.