NORFOLK, Va. – With COVID-19 restrictions eased, more people are getting out to shop at small businesses in Hampton Roads.
For Chris Shelton, Cure Coffeehouse is the gift that’s kept on brewing for 10 years in Hampton Roads.
“It’s quite a gift,” Shelton, Cure’s co-owner, said. “The community we’ve built, the staff that we have – we all feel like family here.”
But of those 10 years, 2020 was a different taste.
“It’s been a roller coaster, I’ll say that much,” he said. “Just to catch up, to break even, has been like climbing Mt. Everest, it seems like.”
For Denise Clarke, Care-A-Lot is not just the name of her pet supply store; it’s also her mindset for her customers and employees during the pandemic.
“It’s our life,” Clarke, VP and co-owner of the pet supply store told News 3. “We were using our service people in our stores just to keep them working.”
Both shops use the Retail Alliance’s LOVEVA app, a rewards program for Hampton Roads shoppers shopping local.
“A lot of small businesses can’t afford their own rewards program,” LOVEVA Marketing Coordinator Abby Schiano said. “It’s a way that they can be included, and they can keep customers coming back.”
How it works is you can look for shops on the app through its map. To earn a reward, you need five hearts. The hearts can be earned at different locations, and rewards can be redeemed where you want at businesses taking part in the app.
Shelton said one reward at Cure is a free cup of coffee. Meanwhile, at Care-A-Lot, users can earn 25% off any toy or treat.
A chart shows the number of hearts earned from January 2019 through June 1, 2021.
The lowest point was a significant drop in April 2020 when the pandemic hit, which Retail Alliance officials said was a direct result of restrictions and consumer safety concerns.
But lately, things have been climbing back up.
“As people are getting vaccinated more and stores are opening more, you’re seeing that reflect in the hearts earned across the board,” Schiano told News 3.
Local businesses believe the app can be an ingredient to help each other after 2020.
“We’re in that feed, we come up, maybe they haven’t heard of us before,” Shelton said. “It incentivizes them to come over and give us a try. Hopefully, they have a great experience and come back forever more.”