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I hope you shared a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend with your family. It seems we all enjoyed (or survived) Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday…followed by “Back to Reality” Tuesday.

For us in Columbus, we got to enjoy a beautiful day for the activities of Santa’s Arrival last Saturday: hopping aboard the horse-and-wagon rides, taking pictures in Santa’s sleigh, and of course, talking to St. Nick himself. Santa will now be in his house in Columbus through Christmas. Santa’s house is now open Thursdays 6-8 p.m., Saturdays 12-4 p.m. & Sundays 1-5 p.m.

We also used Small Business Saturday as the kick-off to the “Columbus Holiday Giveaway.”

The Chamber’s annual retail promotion brought out shoppers on a beautiful Saturday morning in Columbus. This year, $60,000 in Columbus Bucks was available for sale with a nice bonus: $10 free for every $100 purchased. Those dollars were almost all gone Saturday by noon, with the remainder purchased early this week. That means the Chamber is proud to put $66,000 back into local Chamber members, thanks to shoppers who want to “shop small” and “shop local.”

The inventory of free Columbus Bucks used for that bonus comes from a combination of business sponsors and the Chamber itself. This year, several banks led the way as corporate sponsors: Cornerstone Bank; Bank of the Valley; Great Western Bank; First National Bank; Pinnacle Bank and Great Plains State Bank. The Chamber appreciates their recognition of the importance of local small retailers.

Along with the financial institutions that invested, a number of local merchants also lent support through sponsorship of the Columbus Bucks and, in some cases, offering an additional discount on Small Business Saturday. So thanks also to these businesses who invested in themselves and their fellow Columbus businesses.

They were: Advanced Consulting Engineering Services; Hometown Insurance Agency; TC Home Furnishings; Subway; Fast Mart; Sears Hometown Store; Applied Connective Technologies; Downtown Business Association; BeYoutiful Boutique & Gifts; Runza; Barbara Jean’s; Goodwill Industries; Urban Farm Boutique; Rexius Nutrition; Lavender Thyme Gifts; Treasures; Harley Davidson Sales; Eakes Office Solutions; Tooley Drug and Home Care; Imagine That Scrapbooking & Gifts; Market 23; Ace Hardware; Valencia Boutique; Grace Jewelry and Tapestries.

While the Holiday Giveaway is in the books, of course that doesn’t mean that Columbus Bucks can’t still be purchased! Gift-givers can purchase them at the Chamber of Commerce office and they’re just like cash at members. They come in $10 increments, we’ve got gift envelopes to go with them, and they are a great tool for you to invest in Columbus while buying what you need anyway.

Another unique way to access Columbus Bucks during the holidays is the Holiday Loan Program. The program allows shoppers to borrow $500 to $5,000 from Columbus Bank for up to two years. You receive your loan in Columbus Bucks, so once again you are investing in the local economy at the same time! Contact Tim Tarnick at Columbus Bank for details.

I think we all understand the landscape is changing for retail…as it is for most industries. Tools like the Columbus Holiday Giveaway hopefully give a reminder to shoppers that supporting the hundreds of local merchants who are Chamber members makes good sense for them and for their hometown.

K.C. Belitz is the president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce.

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