Shop Long Branch could start up within the month

By Neil Schulman

Long Branch — The Shop Long Branch program, which offers property tax deductions or money back for shopping at participating businesses in the city, should start within the next few weeks.

At the June 12 Long Branch City Council workshop, Roberto Ferragina of the Office of Community and Economic Development said that there were 15 businesses which had signed on to the program to date.

The purpose of the program is to give an incentive to shop locally. He said it was designed to help “existing businesses, primarily mom and pop businesses,” who have to compete against big box stores and online shops.

To take part in the Shop Long Branch, people need to pick up special cards, which will be available at the Greater Long Branch Chamber of Commerce, the city’s libraries, the Office of Economic Development, Department of Recreation and a few other locations.

“They register the cards online. It takes about 30 seconds,” Ferragina said.

Afterwards, they can use it with participating businesses. When someone uses the card, a certain percentage of the transaction is put aside.

A quarter of that is put into running the program. The remainder goes into property tax relief for the cardholder. If the person doesn’t live in Long Branch, or rents property, instead there will be a check for the amount.

Businesses set how much of a rebate users of the program get.

The businesses which had signed up as of June 12 were:

• Bella’s Pizzeria

• The Butcher Block

• BR Help Center

• Caputo’s Italian Pastry Shoppe

• Finer Details

• Interworld Highway

• Jackson Hewitt

• John Guire Supply

• Lapidus Decor

• Attorney Leonard Kizcek

• Norah’s Irie Jamaican Restaurant

• The Peddler

• Sands Dry Cleaners

• Sip’s Ace Paint and Hardware

• V&S Auto Brokers

“We’re working with approximately another 15-20 businesses,” Ferragina said.

Long Branch is not the only town in the state with this program. There’s 27 others, all administered through the private Property Tax Reward Program.

Many groups have worked to help get Shop Long Branch off the ground, and the city says it will work to keep it vibrant. Similar programs in other towns do best with strong support from the cities and chambers of commerce and the community.

“Jake [Jones, Director of the Office of Community and Economic Development] made the arrangement with Investor’s Bank to sponsor the card, which was a significant donation,” said Mayor John Pallone.

The city will give decals to participating businesses. BR Center has offered to translate literature and signs into Portuguese, and Long Branch is planning to get a translation service to make them in Spanish as well.

“I’ve got to tell you it’s a collaborative effort. Had we not had the Chamber of Commerce and the help of Lindsay [DeAngelis, Assistant to the City Business Administrator] we would not have gotten the response,” Ferragina said.

He predicted the program would be ready to start within four weeks.