By Alexandria Hoff

HAVERFORD TOWNSHIP, Pa. (CBS) — The pandemic has hit small businesses particularly hard. A new program in Haverford Township is aimed at giving independently owned shops a boost, and with the holidays right around the corner, the timing could not be better.

“Before we shut down it was a hopping place, people were filling all the tables and having great conversations,” said Brian Niles, the owner of House Cup Café.

A new conversation has been sparked in Haverford Township and it’s about a gift card.

“It’s not just a gift card for this business or that business, it’s a gift card for all of us,” said Jonathan Newman of the Havertown Bicycle Shop.

“If you don’t need a whisky sour or a cheeseburger, certainly there are other venues where you can spend the gift card so it makes sense,” Marc Dent from Brick and Brew said.

The “Discover Haverford Keep it Local” gift card is a concept ready to debut downtown, as a way for friends and family to gift each other funds to be spent only at participating local businesses.

“They can either text it, email it, or print it out and give it to the person as a gift and they can choose where they want to use it,” said Niles.

The recipient receives either a digital or physical Mastercard number. About 20 businesses are part of the program so far.

“Anything they want from helmets to locks to lights to bikes they can come in and use that gift card,” Newman said.

Local businesses see this as an innovative way for the community to continue the support they have shown for the shop small movement, which has largely sustained downtown shopping during the challenges of the pandemic.

This is not a temporary response to the pandemic or even just a boost for the holidays. This program is here to stay once it launches on Nov. 1.

The gift cards can be purchased on the Discover Haverford website.

“Even in this environment we continue to grow and have success,” said Dent.

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Alexandria Hoff