Springfield Area Merchants and Business Association (SAMBA) has grown and flourished throughout the past four years since its merger with SPAR.
Since the inception of the Facade Grant program in 2017, over $18,000 in grants have been disbursed to sixteen Springfield businesses. Due to the success of the Facade Grant program, there will be an increase in available funds in 2021.
In late 2019, SAMBA introduced the Quarterly Mini-Grant, which will assist neighborhood businesses in the planning and promotion of business-related events in Springfield. A total of $750 in mini-grants have been disbursed to three Springfield businesses in the last year with a handful of applications ready for 2021.
During the COVID19 Pandemic, to benefit Historic Springfield businesses, the SPAR Boost Gift Card Campaign was successfully launched. Participants could sell gift cards whose values were boosted $10 or $25 (depending on the starting value) thanks to a donation from a generous neighbor. This initiative alone invested $7500 in our small businesses. SPAR hosted some smaller promotions to honor local frontline workers at SAMBA businesses. During the month of May, SPAR put together a Mother’s Day Gift Basket which was filled with goodies from five different Historic Springfield small businesses, as well as highlighted our local Black-owned SAMBA members in June. At the height of the pandemic, Springfield didn’t lose a single business, rather quite a few opened over the course of 2020.
Throughout 2020, while respecting social distancing protocols, SAMBA hosted meetings, provided funding for grantees, and continued to grow in membership. In grand total, SAMBA held:
5 SAMBA networking meetings
1 virtual webinar on Cares Act funding
1 virtual webinar on Diversity Training
1 virtual webinar on Sustainability solutions
6 Facade Grants
12 New members
28 Renewing Members
12 Increasing level Members
In 2019, SAMBA formed an Advisory Committee, made up of SAMBA members, to assist SPAR’s Commercial Corridor and Beautification Committee with the disbursement of SAMBA funds and with future projects for our commercial districts. This committee was designed to represent business owners from each aspect of the community. Positions are designated as follows: two in the food/beverage industry, one in retail, one in home-based business, and one property owner.
SAMBA leadership continually works with local governmental agencies to provide beautification and pedestrian upgrades to the neighborhood; including improvements to crosswalks, plantings in tree wells and on Main Street medians, more trash cans for our sidewalks, and electrical improvements on Main Street.
We’ve had a lot of growth in the last four years. In 2017, we had an average of 12 attendees at our meetings, in 2018 we grew to an average of 24 attendees, and in 2019, we maintained our average of 25 attendees. Despite the pandemic in 2020, we still held monthly meetings both online and in person welcoming speakers and resources directed towards helping our businesses gain access to vital funding and assistance.
Membership has grown from no regular dues paying members in 2017 to 73 members as of 12/29/2020. An interesting note is that many of our members have joined or renewed at our highest tier giving an 100% increase in Executive Level membership in 2020.
SAMBA works with local publications that are willing to offer discounted promotions for the Springfield business community. In November 2020, SPAR’s “Business is Booming” video is being aired, via a partnership with WANDER Media, in 75 hotels from St Simons Island to St. Augustine and at Jacksonville International Airport. By SAMBA funding this amazing promotional opportunity, our goal was to utilize holiday traffic and encourage visitors to come check out Springfield during the holiday season.
SAMBA leadership is consistently working with Visit Jacksonville to promote our local businesses through their Springfield neighborhood page, Top Lists in Jax, and social media. And for the first time in 2020, SAMBA partnered with the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl for our local businesses to be highlighted to ticket holders as part of the Fan Experience. This was successful in a positive economic impact right at the New Year.
As an addition to Historic Springfield’s Sesquicentennial celebration in 2019, we coordinated a collaboration between Springfield’s three breweries, Aardwolf Brewing Company, and Intuition Ale Works to create a special beer called the Ses-Q Saison. Through our partnership with Champion Brands, we hosted pop-up events throughout Northeast Florida for this beer. This gave the Springfield breweries significant additional exposure for their brands and built awareness of Springfield as a whole.
We are generally one of the first points of contact for businesses who are interested in opening in Springfield. From meeting with business owners to discuss neighborhood needs, logistics, and playing “match maker” with commercial property owners; we are a valued resource for new business owners. We also have ongoing discussions with developers about Springfield neighborhood needs; and have had multiple meetings about potential grocery stores and gas stations coming to the neighborhood. We are also a resource for established businesses, and have helped find sponsors, vendors, musicians, and volunteers for events hosted by Springfield businesses.
If you’re interested in learning more and getting involved, please join us at a monthly SAMBA meeting held every 2nd Monday at 6pm (hosted by a member each month).