For one Friday each of the last several months, businesses along Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice have gotten more exposure with a program of extended shopping hours.
Now a new program is looking to add to that concept by allowing the businesses to not only boost sales but contribute to local charities.
On the first Friday of every month since June, Abbot Kinney Boulevard has been the site of “First Fridays,” a community event meant to extend hours of operation for the businesses on the eclectic street until 10 p.m. and bring visitors beyond the daytime.
While program organizers and Abbot Kinney businesses have praised “First Fridays” as a success for drawing more shoppers to the area, the program was originally planned to run only until this month.
As the last scheduled First Friday event November 2nd was approaching, Venice resident and TV writer Hannah Shakespeare said she had heard that one local organization was in need of some clothes and came up with a unique idea of how First Fridays could continue with a different purpose.
She called her idea “Tag, You’re It,” implying that it would be a fun way for Abbot Kinney Boulevard businesses to contribute to local charities while having extended hours on First Fridays.
“It’s an attempt to bridge business with charity in a way that’s fun and doable,” Shakespeare said of the Tag program.
“It seemed to be an easy way to continue First Fridays and also help the community.”
Through the Tag program, which kicked off Friday, November 2nd, one Abbot Kinney Boulevard business is “tagged” each month to host a donation event for the charity of its choice. The donations are meant to help the charity with immediate needs, such as clothing or meals, she said.
The tagged business for that month will then select another Abbot Kinney business to be tagged for the next month and another charity will be chosen.
Newly sworn-in Venice Neighborhood Council president Mike Newhouse, who helped initiate the First Fridays program, said the Tag program will help bring another element to the Friday events.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Newhouse said. “It will keep people knowing what great stores there are on Abbot Kinney.”
Newhouse said First Fridays was initially only intended to last through the fall, but he is pleased to see that the program can continue in a way to contribute to charity. Many stores have participated in the Friday events, which have helped promote the businesses and create a community gathering once a month, Newhouse said.
“It has been a great start to [First Fridays],” he said.
Karla Stevens, owner of Patio Culture on Abbot Kinney, agreed, saying that each First Friday she has had a “store-full.”
“We’ve had fantastic success with First Fridays,” she said.
Stevens’ business was the first to host “Tag, You’re It” November 2nd, for the Venice Family Clinic. The clinic had expressed a need for socks and underwear, so Patio Culture hosted a donation drive, collecting just under the goal of 1,000 pairs of socks and underwear for the clinic, Stevens said.
“It’s always important to be aware of what’s going on in your community and to find out what the needs are,” Stevens said about why she got involved with Tag. “It’s about giving back to the community that we live in. It’s uplifting to do something nice for the community.”
Following the event, Patio Culture tagged the next business, Tales and Toys, which plans to host a toy drive in December to support the Children’s Hospital.
While Abbot Kinney businesses are not obligated to participate in Tag, Shakespeare said many of the shops have been supportive and already expressed interest in wanting to play.
“The businesses have been very open to this,” she said.
The Tag program has just been born in Venice, but after other areas see what it’s like, Shakespeare said she’s confident they will want to play too.
“I think it’s an idea that can travel,” she said. “I think it gives the community a real sense of pride.”