More than 50 local businesses set up booths inside Crowne Plaza Thursday to celebrate the launch of the Shop Local Union City campaign.
The program aims to strengthen the local economy by offering cash-back rewards to consumers and free marketing for businesses.
“It’s helping to build community,” mayor-elect Carol Dutra-Vernaci said at Thursday’s kick-off. “These businesses not only provide jobs to our residents but it also provides revenue for the city so we can provide the services our residents need.”
“Always think ‘shop local,’” Dutra-Vernaci added.
Through Shop Local — a partnership between the City of Union City, the Union City Chamber of Commerce and Rainbow Rewards — consumers can enroll in a free rapid rewards program and get cash-back for shopping at participating businesses. Meanwhile, businesses will receive free exposure via social media promotions, direct marketing campaigns, weekly "cash mob" shopping events and events like Thursday’s kick-off.
On Thursday, a variety of independent businesses new and old, from Our Lady of the Rosary School and Acute Vision Optometry to Shugyo Akido Dojo and Audio Sound Specialists, lined the hallway next to national chains such as Best Buy, GNC and Chase. Comic and Figure Addicts gave out free comics, Chirosports gave free massages and Purple Monkey Yoga gave quick yoga lessons.
A handful of local restaurants served up fresh food to the nearly 100 people in attendance.
Mr. Kebab, located in the Union Square Marketplace on Decoto Road, offered a variety of their Mediterranean treats, including baklava and hummus. Federicos Tapas and Wine Bar, located on Courthouse Drive in Union Landing, served up meatballs and bruschetta. Fuddruckers had mountains of chicken strips and brownies. And Chaplin’s Sports Bistro offered samples of their new pizzas and soup, which they added to their menu this week, along with their lumpia chicken wings.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had an event like this in Union City,” said Rhea Serran, the City of Union City’s marketing manager, about the event’s turnout.
Participating businesses raffled off a variety of prizes, with all proceeds benefitting Centro de Servicios.
Verna Campbell, an assistant manager at the Union Landing Walmart, said that while the company may be a giant chain, they still help the community and want to see local businesses flourish.
“Walmart truly believes in sharing in the community,” Campbell said. “We need to support each other, support our foundation.”
According to Campbell, the Union City Walmart was the first store in the Bay Area when it opened in 1993.
“I remember when this was nothing but a drive-in theater,” she said.
Watching Union City grow is one of the reasons lifelong Union City resident May Bautista came out to Thursday’s event.
Bautista, 39, was one of the lucky winners of the raffle. A mother of five, she scored a $250 gift card to Walmart and gift bag from Shop Local Union City, among other prizes.
She said she bought $20 worth of raffle tickets to help support Centro de Servicios, which she learned about through Paddy’s Coffee House’s annual donation drives for the nonprofit.
“I always like to support the local events,” Bautista said. “I’ve lived here all my life, my kids go to school here. I like to see the city grow.”