Clintonville Area Chamber of Commerce officials are taking a leaf from the past in seeking to welcome future residents to the neighborhood -- and at the same time, hoping to convince them to shop locally.
Chamber President Jenny Smith announced a new project at the June 21 luncheon: the distribution of canvas bags bearing the organization's logo -- and those of up to six members that pay $200 each -- to new residents of the community.
The goal is to distribute 25 bags a month from June through December. Smith said at the gathering all members were invited at no charge to place advertising items such as keychains in the canvas totes, although not fliers or other documents that could get crushed before the delivery.
In an interview June 25 at the chamber offices, Smith credited member Judy Robinson with conceiving the idea for the welcome effort.
Robinson, in turn, credited an operation that was founded in 1928 with the inspiration for her proposal.
"Where the idea came from is that a lot of us who are independent distributors started our businesses years ago with a company called Welcome Wagon," Robinson said. "It was an amazing way to reach out. This was before we had all this social media."
Welcome Wagon, according to the company's website, was founded in 1928 by Thomas Briggs, a marketer in Memphis, Tennessee.
The company enlisted workers -- the vast majority of them women -- to hand out gifts and coupons to new neighborhood residents while telling them about the community.
Welcome Wagon still exists, but the door-to-door delivery system is a thing of the past.
"We're not doing this for a profit," Smith said last week, noting that the logo ads will cover the cost of the the canvas bags. "It's to introduce our members and let new residents know we'd like them to feel included.
"We want them to feel at home."
"In the 21st century, we've kind of all been splintered," said Daniel Sensenbrenner, a member of the chamber board. "We're trying to find more touch points, ways to connect."
"It takes me back to when someone moves into the neighborhood, you bake them a cake," said Jon McKnight of Lucky Dog Tee Shirts, the firm charged with printing the totes.
"My hope is that this can grow," Smith said. "We're just in the beginning stages."
Robinson hopes newcomers receiving the bags will realize they can buy items at stores in Clintonville that they've been getting online.
"It gives you that face-to-face that a lot of people crave," she said. "At least I do.
"I said to Jenny, 'Gosh, it would be worth a try.' It's a way, I think, for us to reach out and encourage supporting local. We're a strong support mechanism for each other, and I hope that continues."
"They're nice bags," Mike Byrne of Lineage Brewing said the chamber luncheon. "People will use them."
"I think it's going to be a really good thing," Smith said at the event.