By Elizabeth F. McNamara
Pat Bristol was at home – as so many of us are these days – when he got notice online it was time for Ritrovo to pay its annual sponsorship fee for Bristol’s Men’s Softball team. Except all restaurants have been ordered closed because of COVID-19.
“The idea of asking Ritrovo for money at a time like this seemed crazy,” Bristol said. He realized it was time to help the restaurants, not the other way around. Bristol had been seeing the EG Chamber of Commerce’s posts on Facebook, highlighting various local stores and restaurants still operating, if on a smaller scale. He thought, “There should be a giant list of them somewhere.”
“Somehow ‘Bingo’ popped into my head,” he said.
It’s one thing, though, to have an idea. It’s another to make it happen. He decided he needed help and reached out to Sherri Tracy, another EG resident well-versed in fundraising and someone with a wide circle of friends.
Tracy was immediately on board.
“I’ve been involved in raising money for EGEF and other local organizations for years and I’ve watched these businesses over and over donate money,” Tracy said. “Right now, it’s time to give back to those businesses who have given so much to us and our kids over the years.”
Together they brought the Bingo idea to Steve Lombardi and Amy Moore at the Chamber. The result: EG Bingo.
The idea is you print out the EG Bingo sheets linked above and visit all the businesses listed (you could even add your own!). In the video about the effort (find it HERE), Bristol issued this challenge: Visit all the local businesses you can in the next 60 days. Amy Clarke has made a local merchant bingo card. Check off businesses as you go, take a photo or video of you supporting the business and upload it to Facebook. At the end of the 60 days, whoever visits the most merchants gets a $50 gift card to The Patio, one of EG’s newest dining spots.
“I hope people try to help,” said Tracy. “I think people really understand this is a mess. The businesses really need our support.”
The Chamber’s Lombardi praised the effort, noting that the Chamber was doing what it could to promote local businesses.
“We’re trying to keep the candle lit during this tough time,” he said. Actions like this “benefit our local businesses and East Greenwich as a whole. It just keeps some sense of normalcy and shows support for our businesses.”
Gov. Gina Raimondo’s executive order Friday allowing restaurants with liquor licenses to sell beer and wine along with takeout food orders through March 30, should also help those businesses. The chamber supports all kinds of businesses in town, liquor stores as well as restaurants, but Lombardi said East Greenwich has a lot of restaurants and Raimondo’s action could help.
“I know many restaurants have inventory on hand and they’re very, very concerned about that,” he said. “It’s better to get cash as opposed to being stuck with inventory they can’t move for an extended period of time.”
Pat Bristol also mentioned Rally for Restaurants, a website where you can buy a gift card to your favorite restaurants. Find that link HERE.
Local photographers are getting into the act too.
Photographer Cait Costa came up with her own idea for supporting local businesses that she’s calling the “Window” series. She will take a photo of your window – with perhaps your children or pet or you? in said window – give you a digital copy of the photo. In return, she wrote on Facebook, “I ask that you make a small donation to a Main Street East Greenwich Business, which I will track and deliver to businesses (in each of your names) at a week’s end.”
Costa said she would accommodate as many families (who live within 5 to 10 miles of downtown) as she can. Find out more HERE.
Sara Zarrella, another local photographer, has joined #TheFrontStepsProject.She will come to your house and photograph either you, your family or children from 6 feet away (practicing #socialdistancing). You will get the digital Image for no charge. All you need to do is support a local small business of your choice by purchasing a gift certificate. Email Sara@SaraZarrella.com, first come first serve. Include your phone number and address.
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