BY TERESA HAMMOND
There’s a small grassroots movement happening at the center of Oakdale and it comes at the hands of small business owners Bear and Allison Walters. The movement, however, has little to nothing to do with their downtown fitness studio, Get Fit Oakdale.
While to some the movement might seem simple, a T-shirt bearing the words “In This Together” down the front with #weareoakdale at the bottom, has generated much buzz. So much so, that the T-shirt sales idea will now roll out to other neighboring cities.
“We’re about to launch it in Turlock, Ripon, Hughson and Escalon as well,” Bear Walters said of the fundraiser they began to benefit local small businesses. “But that’s tied to a business who has a story to those communities like Butler’s Pantry will be the one spearheading for Escalon.”
The studio owners shared that the past few weeks have been no different for them than most small business owners, so as they transitioned their platform from face to face to virtual they took it one step further.
Ever community minded, as well as involved, the husband and wife team felt the need to find a way to help other small businesses. The idea was simple: sell T-shirts and with each shirt purchased online the purchaser is able to nominate a small local business. Once the sales window has closed, gift cards will then be purchased from nominated businesses and raffled off to purchasers of the shirts.
“You purchase a shirt, you are entered into that drawing to win a gift card,” Allison Walters said. “It’s a win, win for everyone.”
The idea first came to the couple during a meeting specifically targeting how to support local businesses. Within 24 hours it was launched and the response from small businesses sharing via social media was tremendous.
“That’s been on the forefront of our minds this whole time,” Bear Walters said of supporting local business.
“The support we’ve gotten is crazy,” he continued. “We always say it, but the support of people showing up and supporting us through this has been pretty humbling.”
The social media response, which quickly translated into sales, overwhelmed the couple. As shirt sales came through, so too has interest in using the idea in other cities and communities such as Escalon. It also includes a gym in Arizona, as personnel there reached out and shared they were “stealing” the idea.
“Why would we keep this? It’s very easy to duplicate and roll out. And how cool,” Allison Walters said, “everybody wants to get behind something right now; in a time of such isolation to feel like you’re a part of something so unified and benefits everyone is very cool.”
As for what the small business owners wish to see most from their simple idea which has taken full flight, their answer is equally simple.
“Hope,” Bear Walters said, noting they recognize that the money generated through the gift card sales from the local businesses won’t cover many major expenses, but it will create unity and help a little.
“I think this does more emotionally for people to recognize that their support and we’re all in this together and it rallies us all together,” he said. “There’s hope. There’s light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully when we come out of this, hopefully everybody shops small and shops local.”
Looking ahead is something Bear Walters said is important.
“It’s going to end at some point,” he continued of the current shelter in place, “and we need to come out stronger than we were before.”
To purchase a T-shirt visit the Get Fit Oakdale Instagram page at getfitoakdale.