The summer tourism season is over and holiday shopping is still around the corner, but there are still plenty of reasons to shop downtown this weekend.
Saturday marks the annual "Shop Your Community Day" in downtown Traverse City. It's the sixth year of the promotion/donation program, where downtown merchants contribute 15 percent of purchases to a local nonprofit organization of the customer's choice. It's generated almost $60,000 since its inception.
Contributions reached a record $13,900 last year, as donation amounts ranged from a few dollars to more than $1,000 raised by the Cherryland Humane Society and the American Cancer Society.
"We've been very fortunate to be part of it every year," said Mike Cherry, executive director of the Cherryland Humane Society. "It gives us a boost during the Christmas season."
Local nonprofits that participate agree to promote the event to their members and contributors, which generates more traffic for downtown merchants and helps the charities and organizations raise more money. Cherry said the Humane Society promotes the shopping day in its newsletter, along with signs posted around the facility and word of mouth.
"We kind of talk it up verbally among our volunteers and supporters," Cherry said.
Dave Denison, co-owner of Amical restaurant on East Front Street, said downtown businesses typically see a boost from the event, particularly from local shoppers looking to support their favorite charities and organizations.
"There's a lot of shopping that goes on," he said. "You see a lot of people that live here."
Denison said his restaurant decided to boost its donations this year. It will donate 25 percent of the proceeds from all gift certificates sold on Saturday to the organization of the customer's choice.
"Everything I've read about what's happened to nonprofits over the past year and a half is that giving has been down ... so our thought was, maybe this year we can contribute a little more," Denison said. "I like putting it in the hands of my guests. Whatever their interest is, that's my interest, too."
The event began several years ago as a day when downtown businesses collected donations for local charities. It evolved into its present format from ideas local officials gathered at a downtown business conference, said Colleen Paveglio, marketing director for the Downtown Traverse City Association and Downtown Development Authority.
Paveglio said the event helps downtown merchants and their customers get an early jump on the holiday shopping season.
"Because we can't win Black Friday, and we understand that, it's a way for us to get people thinking about the holidays," she said. "The goal is to grow it every year."
The promotion is limited to 50 area nonprofits, and about the same number of downtown businesses will participate this year, she said. Businesses taking part in the program will have special balloons and shopping bags at their shops signifying their involvement.