Community Effort, Community Support

Northampton Merchants Band Together to Support United Way in third annual Downtown Lives United Day

NORTHAMPTON - Hungry diners who walk into Sylvester's on Saturday, Oct. 25, may at first wonder if they've stepped through the wrong door as wait staff will be wearing Live United T-shirts rather than the familiar Ts featuring the restaurant's logo.

The story will be the same at Roberto's Restaurant. That's because Peter St. Martin, who owns both businesses, is taking part in the third annual Downtown Lives United Day - for the third time.

As part of this promotion that supports the mission of the United Way of Hampshire County, 40 Northampton businesses, all of them members of the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, are joining together, having committed to contributing a minimum of $365 - or a dollar per day - to the agency. Many have also committed to donating a portion of the day's proceeds on Oct. 25.

St. Martin said he hopes the unusual wait staff attire in his restaurants will prompt customers to ask about the United Way. His staff will be prepared to tell them all about the agency and how it supports those in need in the Valley.

"The United Way does a lot of good in the community, supporting a lot of nonprofits," he said. "I think sometimes we're all pulled in a lot of directions as far as our giving dollars go, and United Way is great because money is spread out amongst a lot of great causes."

Judith Fine, owner of Gazebo, will donate five percent of her shop's proceeds on Saturday, and she is also running a separate promotion - in hopes of drawing in more women who can, in turn, support the United Way.

"We're asking women to bring in a good condition, used bra, and we'll donate it to a women's shelter or to women in another country," she said. "The customer will then get 15 percent off."

"How can you not support the United Way," Fine asked. "United Way is part of our community. The agencies that it serves serve our citizens, in our communities. We all need to tithe our success. Gazebo is very successful, and we also strive to find ways to give back to the community.

"We're going to write a check to United Way no matter what," Fine added. "Saturday is a way that the customer can feel that they're doing a little bit too."

Maya MacLachlan, owner of the Don Muller Gallery, said she, too, will donate five percent of her proceeds on Saturday. "It's important that I give back to the community," she said. "I also love Downtown Lives United Day in the sense that we, the small businesses, come together and make a statement and make changes to our community.

"It's not just about giving back but that we work together as a team to make a difference," MacLachlan added.

Bud Stockwell, owner of Cornucopia, Cornucopia Skincare and Heavenly Chocolate, will donate five percent of the proceeds in each of his three shops. "It's a civic responsibility," he said. "We consider ourselves to be part of the fabric of this town, and that means that we have to care for those who are less fortunate than ourselves. I love United Way. I love the things they do."

Stockwell said when Downtown Lives United Day began three years ago, only 12 stores - including his - took part. As the chair of the Chamber's Downtown Business Committee, Stockwell has worked to encourage more merchants to take part.

He was pleased to learn that this year, there are 33 percent more businesses taking part than last year. "We want to have more impact by having a lot of different stores participate," he said. "I hope that next year there will be even more."

Downtown businesses are expected to raise roughly $15,000, which will be put to use by the United Way of Hampshire County in addressing local needs related to Children and Youth, Health and Safety and Economic Security.

The United Way of Hampshire County is focused on advancing the common good. It is about sustaining and strengthening a network of local programs and initiatives focused on addressing our community's most pressing needs.

Other merchants to participate in Downtown Lives United include: A2Z Science & Learning Store, A Child's Garden, Acme Auto, Banh Mi Saigon, Cathy Cross, Cooper's Corner, Downtown Sounds, Eastside Grill, Fitzwilly's, GoBerry, The Hotel Northampton, J Rich Clothing for Men, Johnson & Hill Staffing Services, Local Burger, Paradise Copies, Port, Smith College and State Street Fruit Store. And in Thornes Marketplace: 25 Central, Acme Surplus, Backstop Seated Massage, Booklink Booksellers, Captain Candy, Cedar Chest, dani.fine photography, Forget Me Not Florist, Grow, Herrell's Ice Cream, Jackson & Connor, Noteworthy, Paul & Elizabeth's, Rao's Coffee & Café, Refinery and Strada.