NORTH ANDOVER — Officials huddled outside Rose & Dove Gift Shop Tuesday morning to detail a new regional marketing campaign that will boost small businesses still struggling from the Sept. 13 gas disaster. They also provided an update on business recovery efforts.
The campaign, called Rock the Register, is aimed at helping businesses get attention and bringing customers back to the register. Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera said it is funded through the $10 million from Columbia Gas for economic development in the three impacted communities of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.
LAWRENCE — The family of Leonel Rondon, the 18-year-old man killed in the Sept. 13 Merrimack…
The campaign offers a number of incentives and sweepstakes to get people out shopping, and also encourages patrons to spread the word on social media. According to their website, each week, one person in each community will be awarded $500 to shop local.
"People always ask 'Is it over? Is everything fixed?'" Rivera said. "And I always tell people I'm not sure it'll be over until some of the last scars in the streets are fixed, but more importantly, until people feel they have been made whole, and we are far from that today. Hopefully this effort makes them feel a little more whole."
Rivera said the effort will help improve foot traffic and bring more attention to small businesses.
"The efforts today show the power of collaboration in the Merrimack Valley, and illustrates the collective capabilities of our partners across the region," said Andover Town Manager Andrew Flanagan. "We now focus on celebrating our businesses in the Merrimack Valley."
Roughly 70% of the 900 small businesses impacted by the disaster have returned to their state prior to the explosions. Derek Mitchell, executive director of the Lawrence Partnership, said the other 30% say they are not yet whole because their customers have not returned.
Rose & Dove Gift Shop was a local business that closed for days following the explosions, operated without heat for months, and had its entrance blocked for weeks due to restoration work, said owner Kellee Twadelle, who started her business 14 years ago.
"Although we were only closed for three days, the repercussions of that crisis continue today, 10 months later," Twadelle said. "For so many residents in Andover, Lawrence and here in North Andover, when you can't even take a shower at home, or drop your kids off to day care, the last thing people are thinking about is shopping locally... We are not easily defeated. We were knocked down, but we're not out."
Rivera said the claims process remains the biggest obstacle for impacted businesses.
"To get 100% what they asked for from Columbia Gas, they're not getting that," he said. "They're getting less than 100% because the claims process isn't really set up to be advantageous to small businesses, or frankly to anyone, because they're looking to make the least amount of payouts as possible."
This story is still developing. Check back at eagletribune.com for a complete report.