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Small Business Passport event in Union County aims to help 40 local businesses

Developed by the Union County Public Library, it’s a chance to encourage people to shop local and help businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

MONROE, N.C. — Union County is encouraging everyone to get out their passports. Not the kind you typically need to travel, but this time it’s to support local shops.

During the month of March, the Union County Public Library is hosting a Small Business Passport event.

The goal is to get people to visit and support local small businesses. In exchange, customers can receive stamps on their business passports for completing certain tasks. 

Those who complete all the tasks and return their passport to the library by March 22 will be entered into a drawing to win a gift basket filled with products from the local businesses.

Credit: Union Co. Public Library

“It was literally us wanting to help, so businesses were very responsive,” Union County Public Library Director Nina Chaffin said. “We had more interest than we could meet the demand.”

Alice Jules Coffee House in Monroe is one of the 40 participating local businesses.

“If the city thrives, we thrive as local businesses too,” Alice Jules Coffee House owner, Kent Millsaps said.

Some local shops like Dandelion & Friends said they even got their business started in the midst of the pandemic and have felt the continued support from local customers.

“With the pandemic, I think there’s a greater appreciation to shop local so it’s fun to feature a lot of local small businesses in one shop,” Dandelion & Friends co-owner Karsyn King said.

Several businesses report running out of passports in the stores because so many people are interested in taking part in the program. Some stores like East Frank Superette and Kitchen have also gotten a chance to welcome many new customers for the first time as well.

“We don’t spend any money on advertising especially during Covid so it’s mostly social media and word of mouth,” East Frank Superette and Kitchen co-owner Cress Barnes said.

As part of the passport program, Union County was also awarded a $1,000 grant from Google to host webinars and help teach small businesses how to grow.

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