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PGI Shops Punta Gorda Idea

Isles group says PGI Shops Punta Gorda

12/8/2004 - By DAN MEARNS

The Punta Gorda Isles Civic Association is getting behind a member's project designed to increase patronage at local businesses while giving Isles residents a price discount. Nick Carsillo, who has been an Isles resident for only a year, brought the "Shop Punta Gorda" concept to the association and has been trying to sell it to local businesses. The idea is to supply the nearly 4,500 members of the PGI association with a discount card giving them 10 percent off whatever they purchase at participating stores and shops.

"It's a win-win situation," said Pat Warden, an association director. "The card holders get a discount and the retailers get the business and an advertising mention in our monthly newsletter, the "Commentator.' "

PGI Association President Ray Rose, in a letter to local businesses, said the discount cards could aid business owners and the entire community escape the post-Hurricane Charley doldrums.

"We feel that keeping our dollars on this side of the bridge will play a large role in aiding in a speedy recovery for everyone," Rose wrote. "We really like the prospects of this becoming a major factor in Punta Gorda's financial recovery."

Carsillo said a similar program worked well on Marco Island, where he lived for 17 years after retiring from Engelhard Corp., an Iselin, N.J.-based technology company.

"They put it in place eight years ago," Carsillo said of the Marco Island Civic Association, " and it's still going strong." Ninety-two businesses participated in the 2003-2004 discount program on Marco Island, Warden said. "Many went beyond the 10 percent in the off season," Carsillo said, "up to 15 percent. It kept the flow of business going very well."

Marco is different from Punta Gorda in that during the off-season, only 30 percent of the island's population remains, Carsillo estimated. In Punta Gorda, he said, some 60 percent of the population is in residence year-round.

Carsillo has become a tireless advocate for the project. He said 14 businesses have responded so far and representatives of Burnt Store Isles, The Meadows and Seminole Lakes have expressed an interest in the program.

"He knows more people in the short time he's been here than I do in more than eight years," Warden said. Still, Carsillo needs many more businesses to get involved.

"Marco doesn't need this as badly as we do," he said. "Here, with our catastrophic situation, I thought more people would jump at it.

"We can get the ball rolling if we can get it off the ground," he said.

Mark Weiser, president of the Downtown Punta Gorda Merchants Association and owner of the Artistic Gourmet, is a believer. "We're looking forward to it," he said. "The first thing that hits me about this idea is that shows an appreciation for our businesses. "After Hurricane Charley, it was very reassuring that people made a special effort to come into our stores, and this idea seems very much a continuation of that.

"The merchants and customers benefit," Weiser added, "and if it helps the club (civic association) in return, so much the better."

To participate in the program or for more information, call Regina Buckley - 637-1655 or ReginaBuckley@pgica.org

You can e-mail Dan Mearns at dmearns@sun-herald.com