Some $12,800 worth of $2 bills have been exchanging hands in Helena so far this holiday season.
The Independent Record is sponsoring a Shop 100 campaign, encouraging shoppers to spend $100 in $2 bills at local retailers.
The editorial announcing the campaign referenced a study conducted in Portland, Maine, that found $100 spent at local businesses generates $25 more in the community economy than $100 spent at national chain retailers.
As of Dec. 11, 128 people had signed up and pledged to spend a total of $20,900 at local retailers. Some downtown businesses have seen a few $2 bills come across the counter.
For Billie Shepard, owner of The Pan Handler, the appearance of uncommon $2 bills was a bit of a mystery. But once she discovered the meaning, she said she hopes the effort continues.
“We really depend on the holiday season for a lot of our revenue,” Shepard said.
Not a dime is sent up to a corporate office headquartered outside Montana, Shepard said. In fact, some of it is passed on to local manufacturers.
The Pan Handler sells some wooden wine stoppers made by Paul Smetana, who works at Carroll College. The shop carries Tumbleweed Nut and Candy, which is owned by a family that used to live in Helena, as well as caramels from Bozeman-based Bequet Confections.
The Pan Handler also offers discounts to local restaurants who come in looking for items because Shepard said it’s important their hard-earned dollars go far.
Shepard said the largest impact doesn’t come from selling local goods or helping other businesses.
“Of course the biggest money is in my employees,” Shepard said.
She said people who work at small businesses often understand the importance of shopping locally and are more likely to spend their paychecks at other small businesses.
Just a few doors down, Valerie Merritt of Frayed Sew said spending dollars at her store has a different impact on Helena, because as a consignment shop those dollars go straight to local manufacturers.
“The trickle down of people spending locally at Frayed Sew helps your neighbors, helps your community. That money goes to people you know,” Merritt said.
Ninety-five percent of all the products in her store are made in Montana, but there are a few items made by people who used to live in the state and have since moved, Merritt said.
She said the bills brought in to her store were deposited back at the bank, but she speculated that quite a few other $2 bills are ending up over at Blackfoot River Brewing Co.
Dan Berry, owner of the Great Divide Cyclery, said money at his store is recirculated to local advertising outlets.
Bicycles may not be the first wintertime girt that pops into people’s mind, but bikes with fat winter tires have been basically flying out the door this year, Berry said.
Does cycling help the economy? Probably not, he said.
There may not be a lot of cash ending up in other businesses spidering out from Great Divide, but anyone interested in outdoor recreation certainly benefits.
Berry said Great Divide recently purchased bike racks that he distributed around Helena. His business also sponsors Prickly Pear Land Trust, so the organization can maintain trails and develop new ones.
“We’re definitely a community-based business,” Berry said.
He’s only been owner since April 1, but said he wants to help out on more community projects in the future.
Berry’s business neighbor, Steve Coen of The Garage bike repair shop, said he basically spends all his time downtown and never leaves that little bubble.
“The only Christmas shopping I have done this year is in downtown Helena,” Coen said.