EASTON, Pa. (WLVT) - Stephen Flowers isn't sure when he can reopen his salon Suddenly Samantha -- and he's not alone. Beauty and personal care services, which make up more than 10 percent of downtown Easton businesses, are not considered "essential" during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's definitely bizarre. The first week, I was trying to make sense of it all," Flowers said, "and then, by the second week, I got extremely depressed, because I couldn't leave my house. I couldn't go to work."
"A lot of the folks are entrepreneurs, who have done the work they needed to kind of step out on their own," said Jared Mast, executive director of Greater Easton Development Partnership (GEDP). "They've risked their own personal wealth to sign a lease and open their businesses."
Last month, GEDP launched the "Beauty of Easton" campaign, encouraging people to buy gift cards now to help beauty-related businesses survive. The incentive is that buying a gift card means getting one, too. Spending $50 translates into a $10 gift card, spending $100 means $25, and spending $200 turns into $60.
"If someone showed us a receipt, we created a downtown Easton gift card, and we would send it out to them in the mail to redeem when they saw fit," Mast explained. "We also gave them the option to donate that gift card to Third Street Alliance if they wanted to combine and double-dip on a philanthropic effort."
It's welcome news for Flowers, who said he’s sold 42 gift cards so far.
"The nice thing is some people don't want to buy gift cards, and they are clients who are like, 'We're going to pay no matter what. How can we donate money to your staff?' So, we've gotten a lot of support that way as well," he said.
"Salon workers are thought of as a cohort of patrons that really are generous when times are good," Mast said. "So, I think this is all a way of kind of giving back."
The campaign now has even more support behind it. Flowers approached Troy Reynard, one of the owners of Two Rivers Brewing Company.
"We do a program called 'Great Beers for Great Causes.' So, we'll name a beer after someone in our community who's doing good things, and then we'll hold a release party and donate $1 of beer towards your favorite charity," Reynard said. "Well, right now, we can't have a release party. So, what we decided to do was take a batch of beer that we had in a fermenter and dedicate it to this Beauty of Easton program -- and, that way, money can go directly to the salons."
The special beer is called “Beauty of Easton Double IPA." Reynard said it has a citrusy flavor, and they’ve got about 200 gallons. They'll keep the promotion going until the beer runs out.
"You can either order online or call the restaurant to order and pick it up curbside," he said. "You can then designate if you want to donate $5 or $2. You can also, if you want, donate it directly to one of the businesses affected downtown."
Those donations are getting an extra boost, thanks to RMG Insurance. The company is matching donations -- up to $5,000.
"We thought it was just a great opportunity and a great fit to focus on helping one sector, but also help the community at large," said president Ron Martin.
At this point, close to 100 people have bought gift cards at 14 salons. Mast said the campaign has raised about $17,000 -- and once, the matching donations are counted, that number will be closer to $20,000.
"It's uplifting in a kind of dark, difficult time," he said.
"It's an amazing community, and there is no place like it on Earth," Flowers added. "I mean, it's just amazing what we do for each other."
"Easton is going to be alright," Martin said. "People will come back, and they're waiting to come back -- and they will come back."
"Easton’s kind of renaissance has happened organically, and I think now you're seeing the real strength of that," Reynard said.
To learn more about getting a gift card, click HERE.
To order the Beauty of Easton Double IPA, click HERE.