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Broughton Street Bingo
Innovative gambit entices shoppers downtown
Christine Reddick gets her card stamped by Salt Table manager Steffan Legasse.

Bingo may be the hallmark hobby of blue–haired old ladies, but some of Broughton Street’s swankiest shops have given it a chic makeover this holiday season.

Twenty–one local purveyors of clothing, art supplies, gifts, spices and more have launched Bingo on Broughton, a collaborative effort to lure locals into spending some of their shopping budgets on Savannah’s main street.

Like grandma’s game, it starts out with a card with squares to fill. Instead of numbers, however, each square contains a store logo, and when shoppers make a purchase at that store, the square gets a sticker and the purchase gets a 10 percent discount.

The aim is to collect enough stickers for a winning configuration to enter $25 gift card drawings or “blackout” the card for a chance at a $1250 grand prize shopping spree, which is more than the ladies down at the bingo hall could ever hope for.

It’s a shopaholic’s dream—and an ingenious way to drive traffic.

The brainchild of Nourish Natural Bath Products manager Jessica Leavitt, Bingo on Broughton was inspired by last September’s Fashion Night Out, an all–out shopfest that had stores open late and brought thousands downtown.

“I saw how people came together to make it work and businesses helping other businesses,” said Leavitt. “I wanted to create another opportunity for us to be more integrated as a community.”

One of the challenges that local retailers face is the slashed prices at the big box stores and malls. But by eschewing those soulless bargains, Leavitt points out that much of what can be found on Broughton Street is novel, unique, and often handmade. A Bingo lover herself (the game does have a certain hipster cachet,) Leavitt came up with the idea for a Broughton Street version of the game and within the month was pitching it to Nourish’s neighbors.

One of the first to sign on was Elisabeth Seeger of Satchel, who saw the value immediately.

“It’s such a cute concept to get people down here,” said Seeger in her storefront workshop where she and her staff craft handmade leather purses as well as smaller gift items like fashionable wrist cuffs and monogrammed leather beer coozies.

“People really want to buy what’s made locally – or at least what’s not made in China.”

Down the block, Broughton newcomer The Salt Table represents another business in the game where almost every product is created and packaged on site. Owners Carol Sellers and Dave Legasse opened their doors in July to a steady demand for their exotic salts, spice blends, fusion sugars and teas, and appreciate the business community cultivated on Broughton Street their first holiday season.

“Coordinating merchants is always in everyone’s best interest,” said Sellers. “People tell us these kinds of promotions are getting them downtown again.”

Some businesses rejected the Bingo idea as frivolous, but See Jane owner Shelley Smith was impressed with the creativity of Leavitt’s promotion as well as the low output. Each business contributed a piece of the grand prize plus a few bucks for printing, and everyone is responsible for using their social media accounts to spread the word.

“This has already generated new business for me,” affirms Smith, who sells natural make–up and skin care on the west end of the street. “It’s inspiring people to take the time and see what’s out there.”

So far, people are playing. Cheryl Parrish was already on Broughton buying her yearly bottle of winter honey from Savannah Bee Co. when she happened upon the game. Once she got her card, she couldn’t be stopped.

“I was just determined to get bingo,” laughed Parrish, who filled a line straight across her card that same afternoon. “Almost every store was one I hadn’t been in before. It was an adventure!”

Parrish, who serves on the board of the Savannah Development and Renewal Authority as well as pastor for St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, was surprised to find reasonable prices downtown.

“I used to think that there’s a big space between us regular people and Broughton Street,” she said. “But I decided I would only spend five to twenty dollars in each place and I stayed within my budget.”

She says she had so much fun that she’s started another card and plans to take her mother down to play next week.

While the “buy local” movement finally gained some steam this holiday season with the national Small Business Saturday Facebook effort, it’s vital to keep the train moving to have a noticeable effect on the local economy.

According to the economic website, 64.8 percent of revenue earned by local businesses is reinvested into the community in the form of wages paid to employees and spending at other businesses. The percentage for national chains is a little over half that–meaning every dollar spent locally does double duty as revenue and as support for thriving commercial communities that create jobs.

Bingo on Broughton cards can be found at the shops mentioned above as well as Primary Art Supply, Civvies, Paisley Girl, Fab’rik, Copper Penny, Modern General, dc2 design, Serendity Gift boutique, B Street Salon, La Berry, Spa Bleu, Savannah Shoe Co., The Spice & Tea Exchange, Sweetlane and Go Fish.

This eclectic group of retailers will stay open late on Thursdays through December 31st, when it’s game over.