- Associated Press - Sunday, April 13, 2014

ST. MICHAELS, Md. (AP) - People can now shop around St. Michaels in very different way - with a town gift card.

Chris Agharabi, owner of Ava’s Pizzeria and Wine Bar, along with seven other business owners, pooled money together and created a St. Michaels gift card.

Agharabi said he modeled the idea after a town similar in size to St. Michaels - Fort Collins, Colo. - that has its own gift card and last year sold about $500,000 worth of them. So, Agharabi said, he found the company that made the gift card for the Colorado town and started the process to get one for St. Michaels, but the process took about six months.

The gift card was released in mid-March, and there are now about 40 merchants in St. Michaels that have signed up to participate, including shops, restaurants, attractions and lodging, but Agharabi said his goal is to get close to 100 percent participation.

Agharabi said his business sells a lot of gift cards every year, and “mails them every year up and down the East Coast and back.” Though he didn’t say exactly how much in gift cards his business sells, he said, “It’s not a small amount. It’s not $10,000. It’s way higher.”

The businesses involved aren’t making any money on this venture, either. Agharabi said the goal is just to “keep the money in the 21663 area code of St. Michaels.” Also, if any merchants in St. Michaels want to get in on the action, it won’t cost anything - just email [email protected] and work out the details.

“It’s a way to keep business flowing all the time, in a sense,” he said.

He said when people get a gift card, using a $30 gift card as an example, that people will usually spend more than that $30, so it should bring both the price of the gift card and a little bit extra in revenue to town businesses.

Another example Agharabi used is the holidays. Instead of going to Target to buy a gift card for someone, he said he hopes that folks in town will buy a St. Michaels gift card. He also said it would be nice to buy a gift card for someone who is going to visit town, or as a wedding favor, since St. Michaels is such a big wedding destination.

“Hopefully, if we hit $50,000 this year, I’ll be happy,” Agharabi said.

People can buy the gift card and see a full list of participating merchants online at www.stmichaelsgiftcard.com, or buy them in person at Ava’s Pizzeria and Wine Bar, 409 S. Talbot St., Five Gables Inn and Spa, 209 N. Talbot St., or Chesapeake Bay Outfitters, 100 N. Talbot St.


Information from: The Star Democrat of Easton, Md., https://www.stardem.com

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