Trumbull supports local businesses with Main Street Dollars campaign

TRUMBULL — Portia Antonio puts a lot of stock in her store’s “homespun vibe.” The owner of the gift shop Pure Poetry, on Madison Avenue, likes being a small business that supports local artisans — whose works she stocks in her store — and contributes to local causes and charities.

“Even last year, which wasn’t the best year, we were able to give back to to the community,” Antonio said.

But, she added, the store can do more to support others when business is thriving.

That’s why Antonio is happy Pure Poetry was one of three Trumbull businesses picked to participate in the town’s Main Street Dollars Program, a small-business supporting campaign that runs through Jan. 31. The program provides up to 500 certificates to Trumbull residents to spend at Pure Poetry, City Line Florist and Plasko’s Farm.

The certificates are worth $10 and a customer must spend a minimum of $20 at one of the participating businesses to apply the certificate. Certificates can be picked up at the Economic and Community Development Office at Trumbull Town Hall, or at the Trumbull Senior Center on Priscilla Place.

Main Street Dollars, which was paid for with grant funding, is part of the Trumbull Celebrates Local initiative designed to help local business recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Rina Bakalar, Trumbull director of economic and community development.

“With the proliferation of online and so forth, people have gotten away from visiting their local providers,” Bakalar said. “People are thinking about their gift-giving and their holiday needs and they’re thinking about spending that money in town.”

She said if the program is successful, it could expand to more businesses next year.

First Selectman Vicki Tesoro said she’s also excited about the potential of the Main Street Dollars Program.

“This is another way to bring more customers to three very successful businesses in our community,” she said.

Antonio said she thinks the pandemic made a lot of people realize the importance of supporting small businesses.

“I do think they did see a lot of small businesses close right before their eyes,” she said. “I think it sort of woke people up to say ‘Wow. We do need to support these small businesses or they won’t survive.’”

Though her business, which opened in 2015, is still open, Antonio said she hopes the Main Street Dollars campaign sparks more interest in spending locally — if only so Pure Poetry can remain a vital part of the community.

“Obviously, when there are more people coming through our doors, we can sustain momentum to give back,” Antonio said. “We do a lot of outreach, and the more outreach we can do, the better the community is.”

Susan Palazzo, co-owner of City Line Florist, is hopeful that the program will bring more people into the store, which has been part of Trumbull for 45 years.

“I think it’s a great form of free marketing and advertising for the participating shops who all happen to be small businesses,” she said.

Palazzo shared Antonio’s view that small businesses are the lifeblood of communities.

“Your local businesses are the heartbeat of your town,” she said. “Your local businesses are the (ones) hosting food drives for your local shelters or sponsoring your kids’ baseball teams. They are the ones giving back directly to the community.”