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New Gift Card program to encourage community collaboration in West Denver

The Business and Cultural District (BuCu) West Development Association has launched a new Gift Card program for South West Denver, as part of a drive to showcase the vibrancy of the area, and support small family owned businesses.

The West Denver Marketplaces Gift Card can be spent like a debit card with participating businesses in neighborhoods across West Denver, including retail, food and drink businesses, salons and services. The Gift Card is available to buy online and in person from the BuCu West Development Association office on Morrison Road.

(BuCu) West Development Association is working alongside a number of community organizations such as the West Denver Renaissance Collaborative, West Colfax BID, the Little Saigon District, Sun Valley Kitchen and Santa Fe BID, to raise awareness of the Gift Card program with local businesses.

Jose Esparza is the Executive Director at BuCu West and said preservation of heritage businesses was a key factor in introducing the new Gift Card:

“West Denver represents a high concentration of skilled makers and small business owners in a culturally diverse area, from craftspeople, chefs and bakers to stylists and mechanics. A lot of these businesses are very small, and don’t have the capacity to run their own Gift Card program but rely heavily on local clientele for their survival. There is lots of interest in keeping dollars local, and the Gift Card will make that a reality.”

Jose adds: “We see the Gift Card as an opportunity to redirect dollars to West Denver and encourage people to visit the area and experience our authentic and largely family owned businesses. The area is unique and it’s vital that we preserve that uniqueness by promoting our heritage businesses, and the Gift Card will play a big part in that. There’s a big influx of people moving into West Denver right now, and we want them to see the value of our local makers.”

Latina owned bean-to-bar chocolate making company Cultura is excited to accept the new West Denver Marketplaces Gift Card. Owner Damaris Ronkanen was inspired by childhood trips to Mexico to set up her business:

“Cultura Chocolate is made using beans from Latin America. As well as the chocolate factory, we have a café, and a retail space featuring the work from local artists and artisans. Our neighbourhood is super unique with a defined culture. To help preserve the culture and identity of our community it is important for people to shop local and support businesses directly in our community. The Gift Card is a way of connecting a bunch of small businesses together to showcase the uniqueness of the community, and provide the opportunity for consumers to support a wide range of businesses at once.”

“The impact of shop local is huge; it sustains the entire community,” adds Damaris. “People buy a drinking chocolate, chocolate bar or pastry at our café, or they pick up handmade locally produced earrings, prints and candles at our retail space, and it’s more than the product, it’s giving local people an income. It’s helping businesses to employ local staff, and preserving age old skills and techniques. The Gift Card will be a route to new customers for small businesses and is a very convenient and easy way to shop local.”

Mimi Luong is the owner of Asian department store Truong An Gifts, located in the Far East Center. A community leader for the Little Saigon shopping district in Denver, Mimi believes that the Gift Card could support community unity:

“Truong An Gifts has been established for over 40 years and was the first Asian gift shop in Colorado. We sell gifts from all over Asia, from a tea-set and herbal medicine to clothing and jewelry. There is something for everyone, no matter their age or interest.”

Mimi continues: “Each area of Denver is distinct with its own unique culture and customs. We do lots of work to encourage different communities to work together, and the Gift Card could be a good way to encourage further collaboration, with lots of businesses from different cultures and communities represented through one Gift Card. I also think the Gift Card could be popular with the younger generation. The important thing now is to let people know the Gift Card is here and they can use it to support locally owned businesses.”

BuCu West’s Jose Esparza also believes that the choice offered through the Gift Card will make it useful for a variety of uses, saying:

“With a West Denver Marketplaces Gift Card in their hand, people can get what they need, whether that’s food from the bakery, a repair on their car, or an eye test. The Gift Card isn’t a limiting factor, and that makes it appealing for consumers to buy and for employers to give to their staff. It’s also a way that foundations can safely and securely provide dollars to local residents, whilst keeping those dollars locked into the area.”

A business that will accept the West Denver Marketplaces Gift Card, and also hopes to use it to disburse funds locally is Sun Valley Kitchen and Community Center. Founder, Glenn Harper, said:

“Sun Valley Kitchen and Community Center has evolved over the years. After buying the building in 2012, we quickly realized how valued the space was by the community. We started offering cooking classes for children, and opened our restaurant serving breakfast and lunch, staffed by local residents and keeping money in the community. We’ve offered a paper gift certificate in the past but the great thing about the new West Denver Marketplaces Gift Card is that, because it works like a debit card, it’s not such a manual process for businesses. People are really interested in supporting local, and the Gift Card makes that easy to do.”

Glenn adds: “I also like the idea of being able to use the West Denver Marketplaces Gift Card to disburse funds. In the past, we’ve given residents vouchers but giving them the West Denver Marketplaces Gift Card is better because of the choice it offers. People can use their Gift Card in the same way as anyone else; it doesn’t mark them out in any way. We have an ongoing effort of collaboration on the West Side of Denver, and I’m excited about the Gift Card as a new collaborative project for our area.”

The West Denver Marketplaces Gift Card is part of the Downtown Gift Card concept from payments provider Miconex in association with payments technology solutions provider EML Payments.  Downtown Gift Card systems run across the US, in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Montana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, South Dakota and Virginia.

Card is issued by Pathward™ N.A., Member FDIC. Funds do not expire. Non-reloadable and no cash access. For Cardholder Agreement or Customer Service: www.getmybalance.com or 1.833.558.1088.