Owners of retail stores in downtown Asbury Park have joined together to bring customers and more foot traffic to the area.
Unofficially calling themselves Asbury Park Shuffle when they formed two years ago, they are now working to officially rename the group The Asbury Park Downtown Merchants Guild.
Founder Scott Hamm, owner of Shelter Home on Cookman Avenue said he, Jan Sparrow, owner of Words Bookstore and Michael Sodano, owner of The Showroom came together to specifically promote retail businesses.
“It’s a grass roots effort to help ourselves and help our friends downtown,” he said.
Hamm explained that the group is not in competition with the Asbury Park Chamber, whose members include all businesses, banks and restaurants.
“We felt as retailers we need a group that represents us. The chamber is inclusive of all businesses and the events didn’t focus on retail,” he said.
Hamm, along with his partner Gene Mignola, also has a store on the boardwalk, and said Madison Marquette is helpful in bringing foot traffic to that area.
“Madison Marquette does a lot to encourage people to shop there,” he said. “But downtown for retailers, it’s still a struggle, it’s hard work.”
Since its inception Asbury Park Shuffle has put together a packet, or “deck” of coupons from downtown retailers which they give out to customers. They also put them in Bed & Breakfasts in Ocean Grove and Asbury Park.
Hamm said he has had brides ask for 100 packets or more to give out as wedding favors.
The packets started with 14 in the deck, but are up to 22 now.
Asbury Park Shuffle also started a hashtag where customers can use #alliwantAP to post wish lists on their social media pages for friends and relatives to check out before shopping for them.
“You can go into a store, take a picture of a book you want and post it on the hashtag, then hashtag the store. People don’t write lists anymore,” he said.
Hamm said the idea of working together to increase business came alive when the Biergarten opened in town during the winter months and there was a line outside to get in.
“We said something’s changing’ and we wanted to be part of it,” Hamm said.“We want to be cheerleaders for Cookman, Bond and Mattison.”
The group has several events scheduled for November and December.
On Sat., Nov. 26 on Small Business Saturday, sponsored nationally by American Express, a charity toy drive will begin. Area residents are encouraged to do their Christmas and holiday shopping at local stores.
Later that day at 4:30 p.m. carolers and live music will be in Merchants Park at Cookman Avenue and Main Street, followed by a tree lighting and at 5:15 p.m. a holiday music band.
At Cookman Avenue and Bond Street holiday movie images will be displayed on one of the buildings, beginning at 5 p.m.
The group is also encouraging property owners or landlords to string white lights outlining the tops of their buildings before Nov. 26.
Hamm said the lights will be bought prior to the hanging so they will be uniform.
December events are also planned but have not been finalized.