Voucher program aims to draw locals downtown

Asheville, N.C., senior Rachel Sulaski and Riverside, Calif., junior Trinity Long enjoy an afternoon at Waco Cha. Waco Cha is a local coffee and boba cafe that recently opened a storefront downtown. Emileé Edwards | Photographer

By Julia Pearl | Reporter

Biz Bucks, a voucher program designed to support local businesses, was launched Wednesday in an effort to combat the economic impact of COVID-19 and draw Wacoans into the downtown area.

Vouchers can be purchased for $5 and redeemed for $10 in merchandise at participating businesses. Kris Collins, senior vice president of economic development for the Greater Waco Chamber, said that both businesses and shoppers can benefit from the program.

“I think that it’s a great way for local citizens that want to help out in someway to be able to show their support for businesses,” Collins said. “Also, they are able to benefit from it themselves. If they are able to get a discount on something that they buy through the program, that becomes a win-win for everybody.”

In a press release from Seedhouse Creative, Collins said that the goal of the program was to provide quick support to local businesses that are suffering. She said the the vouchers were designed to encourage locals to visit the areas the program specifically targets.

“I think downtown has something for everybody, and that’s what we want to showcase,” Collins said. “There’s an opportunity for more students to come into the area, families or single people. Whomever it is, there is something in downtown for you, and this is a great way to be able to take advantage of that.”

Collins said that through grass-roots efforts they have been able to connect with a number of local businesses. On the day of its launch, the program had 8 business signed up to participate. She said there are only a few requirements businesses must meet to be eligible for the program.

“They need to be locally owned and operated businesses, and they need to be in one of the geographical areas,” Collins said. “We’re specifically targeting businesses located in East Waco, Downtown, Uptown and the La Salle area.”

Coleburn Davis, the owner of Brazos River Supply, said that following an information session about the program, he was eager to get involved.

“It just sounded really exiting, so as soon as it was open that we could sign up, I went and signed up as a business,” Davis said. “I wanted to participate, and I thought it sounded like a neat opportunity.”

Davis said that his goal in joining the program was to remind locals that Brazos River Supply is still open and doing business. He said that while the money from the vouchers may not play a huge role in injecting capital into the businesses, he believes they will help in a different way.

“I think the impact they’ll make is that they’ll get a lot of people reminded that downtown exists and to come and enjoy what we have here,” Davis said.

Davis said he is thankful that the Greater Waco Chamber and their partners were able to put the program together.

“I hope that all of our businesses downtown and all of the other areas, East Waco, La Salle and uptown, can see some impact from it and get to see some people back into their shops,” Davis said.