Bulldog Bucks Begin Arriving at East Palestine Homes

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio – Bulldog Bucks, an initiative of the East Palestine Revitalization Inc. nonprofit organization, are already circulating throughout the village.

The certificates that began arriving in the mail at any address in the 44413 ZIP code this week can be redeemed for $10 off any purchase of $10 or more at participating businesses in the East Palestine area.

So far, 43 businesses have gotten onboard.

Don Elzer, a member of East Palestine Revitalization, points out so many organizations and charities came to town with their hearts in the right place in the days following the derailment. There were free dinners hosted and items given away that benefitted displaced families and those concerned about the safety of their water.

“You couldn’t pull up to the red light without someone putting a case of water in your vehicle,” Elzer said.

Those with big hearts helped local residents in the short-term. But free bottled water, food and Walmart gift cards do not help small East Palestine businesses, which are still struggling to bring back their customers.

Elzer and his wife, Dianna, are business owners themselves and have seen first-hand the effects of the Feb. 3 train derailment on the local economy. Several business owners have reported a 50% drop in business during the spring months compared with last year.

East Palestine Revitalization started after COVID-19 to assist local businesses in recovering from the pandemic. It had helped bring back the East Palestine Street Fair after it was canceled. Now the organization has pivoted its focus to derailment recovery.

“The idea was to start getting money out into the community and keep it here,” Elzer said.

Money for this project was from donations to local charities, including a GoFundMe account started by Dianna Elzer’s daughter to help the village’s recovery after the derailment. The Way Station, which received a lot of donations to assist the village after the derailment, has pledged money to help East Palestine Revitalization’s efforts. A local church also has expressed interest in helping the efforts, Dianna Elzer said.

Participating businesses still receive the $10 by turning in the filled out coupons, which includes the date of sale and the sale amount. Some will spend far more than the required $10 purchase.

Dianna Elzer said one coupon already turned in at one of their businesses, Dogs on the Run, was for an $11 sale, while another turned in at their greenhouse, Sutherin Greenhouse, was part of a $139 sale. 

Every dollar helps keep businesses afloat while people regain their comfort level returning to shop or do business in town.

Dianna Elzer points out some people may even try a business or service they have not tried before because of the discount.

With the coupon, customers can get their hair cut, ice cream, gifts, tires, pizza, candles, antiques, a tan, a workout, groceries, dog grooming, a tattoo, baked goods, car parts or a needed night out for dinner. Some small, home-based businesses and services have joined the list.

The complete list of participating businesses is continually being updated on the organization’s website and Facebook page.

“It’s going to be a long process,” Don Elzer said. “It’s not something that’s going to be fixed overnight. But hopefully this heads everybody in that direction. And there are some people who are not coming back and some people who are coming back no matter what, so we’ll just do what we can.”

This round of Bulldog Bucks must be spent by Sept. 30, but there is a possibility of an additional release of money in the future.

“It’s only the third day, but it’s going really, really well,” Don Elzer said. “We’re trying to figure out how we can raise enough money to do another release, but so far we’ve got over 40 businesses involved and the response has been great.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.