With a new board in place, the Westerville Uptown Merchants Association plans to work on spreading the word about the advantages of shopping locally.

With a new board in place, the Westerville Uptown Merchants Association plans to work on spreading the word about the advantages of shopping locally.

"Buy local is our No. 1 issue," said Kriss Rogers, of Outside Envy, who took over as the group's president on July 2. "It's something we've been trying to push with our merchants and with our customers."

Much of that effort will involve promoting the advantages of shopping at local merchants - mainly supporting businesses and their employees and keeping more money in the community.

Rogers said the association will work to draw attention to the 3/50 project, which encourages people to think about three local merchants they would be sad to see close and to commit to spending $50 at a locally owned, independent business each month.

Through the association, Rogers said Uptown merchants have cultivated a supportive environment and now, she said, they would like to work on earning even more support from the community.

"We get tremendous, tremendous support from the community," she said. "It's kind of like building on a good thing."

Rogers said the Uptown Merchants Association also plans to work more closely with the Westerville Visitors and Convention Bureau to draw more visitors to Uptown.

"We want to become a shopping destination. We want people to think Uptown first," Rogers said. "It's kind of the crown jewel of Westerville."

Rogers said she expects to see Uptown's popularity grow as more shops and restaurants move in and the vacancy rates continue to decrease.

"There are several new stores. We have new restaurants coming in," she said.

Rogers opened Outside Envy, 15 N. State St., two years ago and has been involved in the Westerville Uptown Merchants Association since. She headed the group's development of an Uptown gift card.

Others selected to association's board include: Lisa Herrmann, co-owner of It's All in the Name, 20 S. State St., who will serve as vice president; Deb Bennati, of A Gal Named Cinda Lou, 20 N. State St., who will serve as secretary; and Julie Brown, of Brown Tax Accounting, 18 W. College Ave., who will serve as treasurer.