Loyalty card builds base of Dot merchants, consumers

Tayla Holman, Special to the Reporter
Nov. 15, 2012

Go Local Metro Boston, a loyalty program that offers shoppers and businesses a way to support their communities and get discounts, is ramping up its efforts to build a base in Dorchester.

The Go Local card provides instant rewards to shoppers without the hassle of rewards points or punching a card. Each business designs its own reward program that is catered to the needs of its customers, but shoppers only need one card for all of the businesses that are partnered with Go Local. For example, starting October 1, Ashmont Grill

began offering Go Local cardholders a free mini Sticky Toffee Pudding with their meal, with a minimum purchase of $20 before tax.

The company was founded by Natalie Hereford and her husband, Patrick, in May 2011. Dorchester’s Erin Anderson, director of community development joined the team in August of that year and created a “community strength culture assessment” model to identify community stakeholders.

The four-person team at Go Local – consisting of Hereford, Anderson, and community development and business coordinators Rosanne Foley and Carolina Prieto – has recruited about 40 businesses in almost 20 neighborhoods in the past two and a half months. That number grows weekly as more businesses join the program.

Inspired by Go Local Austin during SXSW (South by Southwest), a set of film, interactive and music festivals and conferences that takes place each spring in Austin, Go Local began in farmers markets as a way to encourage people to support local farmers. Hereford thought it was a great idea and brought it back to Boston as a way to not only reward customers for shopping at local businesses, but to bring in new customers for the businesses as well.

Go Local is also meant to be a national movement, so cardholders from other cities will be able to use their card at Metro Boston businesses.
“It is meant to be a sustainable reward that is a nice way to say ‘thank you’ to customers already going to the businesses and invite new customers,” Foley said. “It is a low-tech, pretty grassroots way to make the local economy more prosperous.”

Bobin Nicholson, owner of Eye and Eye Optics in Lower Mills said he started participating in Go Local because he “really loved the idea of small businesses coming together to try and create a way in which we can build a stronger Dorchester economy.”

Nicholson said he just joined the program about six weeks ago and would like to see more people using the Go Local card at his store.

“It’s a great, great idea and I fully support it,” he said.

Ken Osherow, owner of Savin Scoop, Savin Bar and Kitchen, and McKenna’s Café said his businesses have received a lot of business because of Go Local.

“People love it,” he said. “It actually makes them feel happy when they shop local businesses.”

Osherow has been involved in the program for about four months and said it was “just another piece of the puzzle to allow [local businesses] to give something back to the customers.”

The card can be ordered online through Go Local Metro Boston’s website, or can be bought at one of the participating businesses. The card costs $10 and is valid for about a year depending on the print cycle. There is also a free Go Local iPhone app available.

Go Local will also be participating in a “Shop Small Saturday” event the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Inspired by American Express’s Small Business Saturday, the event will encourage people to shop in Dorchester that day and to shop locally every day.

Foley, a longtime civic activist in Dot, said, “It’s neat to be associated with something that’s so positive. It’s been really fun to meet folks and then help them get their businesses out there.”