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Small Business Rallies In Support Of Colleagues
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Bear and Allison Walters model the recently released “In this together” shirts, which are being sold to benefit local small businesses.

There’s a small grassroots movement happening at the center of Oakdale and it comes at the hands of small business owners Bear and Allison Walters. The movement, however, has little to nothing to do with their downtown fitness studio, Get Fit Oakdale.

While to some the movement might seem simple, a T-shirt bearing the words “In This Together” down the front with #weareoakdale at the bottom, has generated much buzz. So much so, that the T-shirt sales idea will now roll out to other neighboring cities.

“We’re about to launch it in Turlock, Ripon, Hughson and Escalon as well,” Bear Walters said of the fundraiser they began to benefit local small businesses. “But that’s tied to a business who has a story to those communities like Butler’s Pantry will be the one spearheading for Escalon.”

The studio owners shared that the past few weeks have been no different for them than most small business owners, so as they transitioned their platform from face to face to virtual they took it one step further.

Ever community minded, as well as involved, the husband/wife team felt the need to find a way to help other small businesses. The idea simple, sell T-shirts and with each shirt purchased on-line the purchaser is able to nominate a small local business. Once the sales window has closed, gift cards will then be purchased from nominated businesses and raffled off to purchasers of the shirts.

“You purchase a shirt, you are entered into that drawing to win a gift card,” Allison said. “It’s a win, win for everyone.”

The idea first came to the couple late last week, during a meeting specifically targeting how to support local businesses. Within 24 hours it was launched and the response from small businesses sharing via social media tremendous.

“That’s been on the forefront of our minds this whole time,” Bear said of supporting local business.

“The support we’ve gotten is crazy,” he continued. “We always say it, but the support of people showing up and supporting us through this has been pretty humbling.”

The social media response which quickly transpired into sales overwhelmed the couple. As shirt sales came through, so too has interest in using the idea in other cities and communities such as Escalon. It also includes a gym in Arizona, as personnel there reached out and shared they were “stealing” the idea.

“Why would we keep this? It’s very easy to duplicate and roll out. And how cool,” Allison said, “everybody wants to get behind something right now; in a time of such isolation to feel like you’re a part of something so unified and benefits everyone is very cool.”

Deadline for the first run of the Oakdale shirts is this Wednesday, April 1 at midnight. Escalon and other cities are expected to roll out their shirt sales and business nominations sometime later this week. The couple anticipates they will have a second run of the Oakdale shirts, but are eager to get the first run out and on people’s backs.

“That just made the most sense right now,” Bear said of the current plan.

As for what the small business owners wish to see most from their simple idea which has taken full flight, their answer is equally simple.

“Hope,” Bear said, noting they recognize that the money generated through the gift card sales from the local businesses won’t cover many major expenses, but it will create unity and help a little.

“I think this does more emotionally for people to recognize that their support and we’re all in this together and it rallies us all together,” he said. “There’s hope. There’s light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully when we come out of this, hopefully everybody shops small and shops local.”

Looking ahead is something Bear said is important.

“It’s going to end at some point,” he continued of the current shelter in place, “and we need to come out stronger than we were before.”

And when it comes to the community, the small businesses and the buzz, the Walters’ words are simple, yet heartfelt, “A huge thank you from us, to the community. The businesses that supported it. They’re the ones that make it happen, not us and to all the people who bought the shirts.”

To purchase a T-shirt visit the Get Fit Oakdale Instagram page at getfitoakdale.