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BINGO! Group hopes classic game can give boost to small businesses

Local First has come up with a bingo game, hoping a prize could serve as an incentive to shop small in West Michigan.

KENTWOOD, Mich. — As she locks up shop on a Monday night, Verhey Carpets interior designer Karla Wischmeyer says she feels blessed that the business she has worked at for 35 years is thriving, even after a global pandemic ravaged the economy.

"Like everybody else, we had to shut our doors for awhile. When we did reopen up, we were totally surprised that it was just crazy busy," she said.

Wischmeyer says because people have been home more, they're rethinking the designs of their homes, and stay at home orders provided people more time to complete those projects. She says some flooring stores didn't make it, but most are doing well.

"Now that everything’s opened up, our industry has just exploded. I think you’ll find a lot of these kind of industries have."

Wischmeyer knows that Verhey Carpets is in a fortunate position, having made it through the worst of the pandemic without losing too much revenue. Not far from their 29th Street location, many other businesses have gone out of business while others are having trouble hiring.

That's why Verhey Carpets and the other businesses that make up the group Local First are working to support small businesses with a Fourth of July-themed event called Independents Week, a play on Independence Day.

Among the activities for Independents Week is a bingo game that people can play as an incentive to shop small.

"The different tiles represent different action items that you can take to support local businesses," said Mieke Stoub who serves as Marketing Director for People First Economy, which runs the Local First program.

"Some of them are buy takeout from your favorite restaurant or a restaurant that's new to you. There’s also leave positive reviews online. As soon as you fill out at least one of the rows on the bingo card, you can submit it back to us and be entered to win a gift card from Downtown Holland."

Stoub says that communities with higher percentages of locally-owned businesses are better off by "almost every social and environmental measurement," because for every 100 dollars you spend, 68% of it stays in the community and is recirculated.

"That goes to things like your kid’s school, your non-profit organization," she said.

If you'd like to play bingo, you can download the card and view instructions on Local First's website.

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