Monroe and Woodbury Relief Market is a Facebook-based group that has offered some financial relief to small businesses in Monroe and Woodbury during this time of COVID-19.
Since it started in April, the Relief Market has grown to 3,500 members and has raised approximately $175,000 for businesses in Monroe and Woodbury.
An opportunity when the pandemic restricts commerce
Monroe Town Councilman Sal Scancarello said he got the idea from Carmela Borrazas, who, with Nicole McCormick, created the Warwick Relief Market that has more than 6,000 members and has raised about $400,000 for businesses in Warwick since it started.
Business owners have said that had it not been for the relief market, they would have been unable to pay their mortgage, rent, put food on the table or keep their business.
While COVID-19 safety guidelines limit the public’s access to brick and mortar stores, the Monroe and Woodbury Relief Market “gives local businesses an opportunity to sell their products,” Scancarello said in an interview this week. And consumers can take a chance on purchasing those products or services “while literally sitting on their couches.”
The effort also has generated new customers for some businesses and made consumers aware of local businesses and the products they did not know existed.
How does it works?
Scancarello is responsible for the logistics of the Relief Market, but it essentially works like this:
A business will offer a gift certificate of $100 for its products (like Monroe Jewelers or Harriman Army-Navy) or services (like Scalia & Co. Craft Kitchen and Bar or Lovebites Chocolate Shoppe/Café).
The information is then posted on Monroe and Woodbury Relief Market’s Facebook page, where people essentially buy a raffle ticket, typically $10 or $20. A set number of tickets are available.
Relief Market members can buy raffle tickets using PayPal or Venmo, which is a mobile payment service owned by PayPal.
A roulette wheel is spun to determine the winner. The business earns money while consumers have the knowledge they are helping local businesses and the local economy.
There is no overhead and the money is split between the raffle winner and the business, Scancarello said.
By law, there’s a limit of $500 in prizes on any given day. “The lawyers said anything over that would be considered gambling,” the councilman added. Currently, the raffles take place three to four times a week.
Scancarello also said the Relief Market has attracted crafter vendors whose livelihood has been cramped there have been few craft fairs due to the coronavirus.
There are no plans to curtail the effort when and if the pandemic ends. In fact, Scancarello added, he’d like to see the Relief Market to expand to 20,000 members.
“This,” Scancarello added, “is the new normal.”
To learn more about the Monroe and Woodbury Relief Market, visit www.facebook.com/groups/517066842511381/?ref=share.