New Canaan’s business community is gearing up for an increasingly popular annual event that connects local merchants with customers while benefitting the local food pantry.
Chamber Marketing Associate Laura Budd calls the event “a triple win.”
“Number one, the food pantry gets stocked. Supplies definitely get low over the summer,” Budd said. “Number two, the stores are rewarding the strollers for stocking the pantry shelves with a great night out. And three, stores are benefitting from meeting a lot of potential new customers.”
Here’s how it works:
- At 6 p.m., participating “strollers” come to one of three locations—the chamber’s table in front of the Playhouse at 89 Elm St., Papyrus at 32 Elm St. or Sara Campbell at 137 Elm St.—with proof that they’re supporting the New Canaan Food Pantry (what proof? see below) to pick up a map of the 35 local stores set up for the Taste of the Town.
- From 6 to 9 p.m., the Taste of the Town is on—each business will be set up with something to eat, drink or both. Strollers will get a special stamp on their map at each store they visit.
- At 9 p.m., strollers bring their stamped maps—or proof of shopping, receipts totaling $200 or more—to enter for a chance to win one of 40 prizes from local merchants (in total a more than $7,000 value; grand prize is one complimentary blow dry per week at Le Boudoir salon on Main Street). Drawing at 9 p.m. in the Pop-Up Park.
It’s a popular event, with plenty of locals back in town after summer vacations, including families with kids ramping up for fall sports seasons. In the past, up to 800 “strollers’ have participated, Budd said.
Participants can “enter” the Taste of the Town Stroll in a few ways. Donations to the food pantry (see list below for what’s needed) can only be brought to a registration table on the day of the event. They can also bring their $200-plus worth of receipts for entry in the 40-prize contest drawings (names pulled from a hat).
One very popular way that people can enter, starting later this week, is by purchasing a bag of items specifically needed for the New Canaan Food Pantry from Walter Stewart’s, and at cost. A $15 bag purchase has a retail value of $25, and a $25 purchase a value of $40.
Alex Stewart said the market has been supporting Taste of the Town Stroll since its inception here.
“What we’re trying to do is make it convenient for people, because that’s the ticket to get into the whole thing,” he said.
“What we’ve done is we’ve taken specific items that the food pantry is looking for and assembled them into two easy, ready-to-pick-up packages and it’s a great deal. It’s at our cost.”
While those who enter the event through Stewart’s are welcome to take the items with them and then bring them to a registration table next Thursday the 21st, the market is making even more convenient by issuing a receipt to participants, and that receipt will earn strollers a map/entry on the day of the event.
For people shopping on their own, specific items that are needed include herbal tea, coffee, canned fruit, peanut butter, jelly, dish and laundry soap, crackers and pasta.
Volunteers from the National Charity League are pitching in by operating the registration tables, and businesses new and old are putting up scores of prizes (they’ll all be listed on the back of the map). Budd said that prizes include a three-month membership to Oxygen Fitness on Pine Street, lunch for two at Solé and a shopping spree at Jack Wills.
“It’s going to be a fun night,” O’Neill said. “We want to be a part of it.”
Ralph Lauren General Manager Alice Hoffenberg said that the store, after partnering with elm restaurant and Roger Sherman Inn on food for the first two years, is bringing in a caterer for the second straight Taste of the Town Stroll—entrees at Ralph Lauren and desserts at the children’s store, also on Elm.
“We want to be part of the community of New Canaan and we love opening our doors to everyone that wants to come in to visit us,” Hoffenberg said. She added that the store plans to give away “little pink buckets that say ‘Ralph Lauren Supports the New Canaan Food Pantry.’ ”
A few doors down, Maxine Berg of boutique women’s fitness wear shop Jade, which just opened its doors last week, said she’s eager to participate, in part, because it’s “a great way to introduce myself to the community.”
“And anything I can do to support the chamber, they’ve been so supportive of me, and of course the food pantry,” Berg said.
Caren Forbes of the eponymous clothing and accessories boutique on Main Street said “any time the chamber plans an event, I am in.”
“One of the coolest things about owning a store in the town in which I live is being able to participate in events like Taste of the Town,” Frobes said.
More than sales, the night “is about community,” she said. “Saying hi to friends and customers—and feeling the warmth of the collective ‘us’ as we all relax—say a ‘goodbye’ to the summer and just enjoy being a part of our very wonderful town.”
For more information on the Taste of the Town Stroll, phone the chamber at 203-966-2004 or visit its website here.