KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD — The Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership is trying to help local businesses this holiday season as they continue to face the economic challenges of the pandemic.

The Downtown Dollars program gives customers additional dollars for every gift card they purchase.

The cards can be used at more than 35 participating businesses ranging from restaurants to retailers.

Andrew Haan, the president of the partnership, says the program is just one of many ways they are trying to help.

“We try to be creative throughout the holiday season, are really stretching our brains and looking at even more interesting ways to do that this year,” Haan said.

The partnership is contributing $5 to add to each $20 gift card purchased for the first 1,000 transactions.

The program is similar to another one the organization launched in the spring, but now the money can be used at any participating business, not just one individually.

There are other changes this holiday season in downtown Kalamazoo.

“Last Saturday was of course known nationally as Small Business Saturday. Well, we’re making every Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas our Small Business Saturdays,” Haan said.

Men’s retailer and barbershop The Waiting Room opened during the pandemic this August.

Tom Crowe, one of the owners, says while it was a challenging time to launch a business, he sees opportunities for growth.

“We had planned on doing this, bringing this new concept to Kalamazoo, and then the COVID hit and we just kind of kept our heads down and kept building out and finally we were able to open,” Crowe said.

The Waiting Room also made things easier for customers not comfortable coming inside the store during the pandemic.

Twrnow.com has been live for a few weeks and you’re able to do online sales plus curbside pick-up,” Crowe said.

While this will be the first holiday shopping season for the new business, it appreciates the support from the Downtown Dollars program.

“Anyone shopping local and using those gift card programs, it’s really helpful just to show up and support your local business people,” Crowe said.

For more information on the Downtown Dollars program, visit the partnership’s website.