INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - In 2012, the multi-community Shop Local program had its most successful season of enticing holiday shoppers into North Lake Tahoe businesses, more than doubling the sales it generated the year prior.The program, formed six years ago to draw attention to Tahoe's crafted gifts, generated $192,225 in local spending, compared with $80,000 in 2011, said Joy Doyle, executive director of the North Tahoe Business Association. The 2012 sales totals are also more than four times what the program drew in 2010."It's easy for people to get in the habit of going down to Reno or Carson City to shop, but here we have many more unique gifts," Doyle said. "Who wouldn't want a gift from Tahoe? Everyone wants that Tahoe touch."The North Lake Tahoe economy depends on its businesses doing well, especially during the holidays, Doyle said. But for years, businesses were being left in the cold with holiday shoppers buying gifts online or from big box stores in flat-land cities.By offering raffle prize incentives with local purchases, Shop Local is bringing holiday shoppers back to North Tahoe, Doyle said, and keeping resulting profits within the local communities.From Thanksgiving to Christmas, participating businesses in Incline Village, Kings Beach, Tahoe City, the Village at Squaw Valley and the Village at Northstar offered prize cards to shoppers. For every $25 spent, a sticker for the card was given to the purchaser. Three stickers or more qualify for raffle prizes; 13 or more stickers qualify for 12 grand prizes. The drawing was held in January.Incline returnsMike Young, president of the Incline Community Business Association, said Incline Village had $22,750 in sales connected with Shop Local in 2012, with 76 people turning in raffle cards, compared with 28 raffle cards in 2011.He said 58 of those cards were completely filled out, qualifying entrants for grand prizes such as a season pass at Diamond Peak, a foursome at the Mountain Golf Course or a "couple of months" pass at the Incline Village Recreation Center."Word is getting out that this is a good thing to do. Everybody's getting behind it," Young said. "Consumers are saying, 'hey, this is pretty good.'"Despite the program's success, there still are draws to the cities down the hill. In an interview this week, thirty-year Kings Beach resident Ann McLaughlin said she wasn't aware of the Shop Local program. During the holidays, she said she shops locally when she can afford it, but finds better values and prices in Reno and Carson City, which she said is worth the drive.On Wednesday, Pauletta Erickson, part owner/manager of The Tahoe Store Emporium in Incline Village, said she thought the Shop Local program could have gone better. She said she wasn't approached about the program until halfway through the holiday season, adding that some customers participating in Shop Local did not know which stores were involved."I shop locally, but wasn't aware of Shop Local," Incline Village resident Mona Khashoggi said on Wednesday, adding that she feels Incline Village and its various boutiques have a lot to offer to holiday shoppers.In the Village Center, Alyssa Aninos, manager at Dress the Part(y), said the costume and party supply store had better results, but said Shop Local could be improved with more exposure and window signs for participating stores.Still, Aninos said she wants to continue with the program and sees it improving each year.A bright futureDoyle attributed this year's higher spending to bringing Northstar and Squaw Valley businesses on board, and to Shop Local businesses offering more grand prizes with values up to $500.Incline Village resident Susan Goldenberg was one of those who won a grand prize - a $500 gift certificate at Tahoe Dave's Skis & Boards. Goldenberg and her husband, Blake, own Village Toys and Susie Scoops Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt in Incline Village, both of which were participating businesses in Shop Local this year."(Shop Local) helps the community, it helps all of us," Susan said. "It helps some small businesses stay in business."Steve Hoch, executive director of the Tahoe City Downtown Association, said Shop Local "increases the velocity of spending" on the North Shore while also introducing shoppers to participating merchants."I personally went into three or four participant's businesses for the first time, to do my holiday shopping," he said.As for the future, Hoch said his association may consider including other holidays throughout the year in order to build on the success at the end of 2012.The program is part of the 3/50 Project and coordinated by the North Lake Tahoe Chamber/CVB/Resort Association, the North Tahoe Business Association, Tahoe City Downtown Association, Incline Community Business Association, the Squaw Valley Business Association and the Village at Northstar coordinated the program.The 3/50 project's message is to "Pick 3. Spend 50. Save your local economy." According to its mantra, for every $100 spent at locally owned businesses, $68 returns to the local community. Learn more at www.the350project.net.- Frank Fisher is a freelance reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. He can be reached for comment at email@example.com.
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