Bremen Bucks keep local money local

BREMEN — To ensure a solid future for area businesses and downtown, few things are more critical than residents spending their money here.
“It is extremely important. It’s how our communities thrive,” Bremen Chamber of Commerce Treasurer Phyllis Van De Keere said. “If all of our residents shopped out of town, then our businesses would soon have to close. If they close, our town would start to die. It is important for people to shop in town whenever possible.”
To help keep Bremen cash pumping through its businesses, there are Bremen Bucks, which can be given as gifts and can be spent almost anywhere in town — and only in town.
“If you give a gift certificate that’s only good in Bremen, it kind of forces you to shop in Bremen,” Van De Keere said. “We want people to shop here so they get an idea of all the things we have. There’s a lot of things here that maybe even some people who live here don’t know we have.”
Each Bremen Buck looks like a check, and they can be spent at most area businesses and restaurants.
“We let all of the businesses know that when they get one of these, that it’s the same as cash,” Van De Keere said. “The only thing they are not good for is to turn around and cash them or put them in a checking account or savings account. They are good for goods and services.”
Anyone wanting to give a gift of Bremen Bucks can come to Bremen City Hall and purchase any amount they desire. It is requested that purchasers keep individual denominations to $25 or under.
“If you want $100 worth, we’ll give you four $25 ones,” Van De Keere said. “The reason for that is that it helps the businesses if they don’t have to give back a lot of change on small purchases. It is up to the businesses if they want to give cash or a store credit back.”
One hope is that more area employers will follow the lead of two local factories — Bremtown Kitchens and Graphix Unlimited — which use Bremen Bucks as gifts for their workers. Bremtown gives them out for birthdays, while Graphix hands them out instead of Thanksgiving turkeys.
“The more people that use them, the more exposure businesses are going to get, especially if they’re given to out-of-town people, like at Homespun Holidays, where they’re given out as prizes,” Van De Keere said. “It has gotten more popular the last few years. I used to not sell many at all, but now I sell quite a few, especially this time of year. It’s a great last-minute gift.”
Another aspiration is to see Bremen Bucks replace common gift cards at the local level.
“Gift cards are really popular right now. That’s what these are, you just have to spend the money here in town. I would think the businesses who are giving out gift cards might want to give these out. That way the people they’re giving them to are turning around and using that money either at their own store or at least their own community.”
For more information on Bremen Bucks, call 574-546-2044.