As the Democratic National Convention draws closer, the Matthews Chamber of Commerce and its members are hoping the convention will boost business here, too.
Although Matthews isn’t exactly in the center of the hustle and bustle, the Matthews Chamber is encouraging its members to take several steps to prepare for and generate extra business.
“We’re encouraging (business owners) not to leave town,” Tina Whitley, the chamber’s executive director, said. “We have no idea if it will (boost business), but we’re telling businesses, ‘Don’t close up and leave town.’”
Whitley also said the chamber is hoping its annual car show, held on Labor Day, will draw in early arrivers, and is planning to promote the event with flyers and word of mouth. Mint Hill Chamber of Commerce President Rich Ferretti didn’t return messages by press time.
“We’re putting info in Charlotte and hoping (the car show) will drive people down here,” Whitley said.
And, of course, she encourages businesses to advertise themselves as well. “We’re encouraging them just to be aware of what’s going on, get the word out that they’re here,” Whitley said.
Earlier this year, the Matthews Chamber held a luncheon featuring Mary Tribble, chief planner for the Charlotte Host Committee of the DNC. She urged chamber members to register their businesses for the host committee’s new vendor directory – the most expansive list of vendors ever created in conjunction with the convention – which was established to advertise local businesses during the convention. At press time, there were 111 Matthews businesses and 17 Mint Hill businesses listed in the online directory at www.charlottein2012.com. Local businesses can still add themselves to the list.
B.J. Verrastro, owner of wellness spa Guided Hands in Matthews, who attended the luncheon, took Tribble’s advice to heart and made sure Guided Hands was included in the directory.
“We’re definitely on that list, and we’re also on the chamber website,” she said.
Many of the Matthews hotels have been booked for months during the DNC, and local businesses plan to start by advertising their services there.
Verrastro said her company has contacted Matthews hotels like the Hampton Inn and Courtyard Marriott, asking them to encourage visitors looking for a massage to visit the spa.
“We wanted to let them know that if someone is inquiring about somewhere local to get a massage, we’ll be here,” Verrastro said. “We’ll be open all four days. We’ll have all our staff here. Hopefully, we will be the referral place of choice.”
Randy Provance, owner of catering company Southern Gourmet, also has contacted hotels in the area.
“We’ve let some of the hotels know (we’re here),” Provance said. “Hopefully we’ll get some last minute (catering jobs).”
One of the biggest factors that may influence business, Verrastro believes, is networking. She says chamber members should work to refer DNC visitors – and everyday customers – to each other.
“When people come (to Guided Hands) and ask where’s a great place for lunch, our first thought is the chamber and the trade exchange,” she said. “We want to refer them to people we’ve networked with and that have networked with us as well. That’s kind of been the talk when we go and frequent these places.”
Other than working to advertise their businesses and spread the word through networking and word of mouth, business owners are simply crossing their fingers in hopes that the convention will send some people their way.
“(The convention) hasn’t generated anything yet, but we’re hoping to step up the campaign a little further this week,” Provance said.
Hoping to draw in visitors from the DNC as well as local customers, Verrastro plans to have Guided Hands representatives attend the Matthews Alive! festival, sporting T-shirts with the business logo, meeting people, shaking hands and letting them know they’re open for business.
“I don’t know if it’s going to be a huge boost in business, but we’re out there and we’ll hope someone sees us,” she said. “We’re ready for it.”
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