Roam the Winter Wonderland aims to boost business during winter pandemic months


On Monday, Jan. 11 three Cleveland organizations announced a joint initiative designed to inspire residents to support local businesses while practicing social distancing. “Roam the Winter Wonderland” intends to help restaurants and stores in various Cleveland neighborhoods through the winter months of the pandemic with events and promotions through April.

A collaborative effort between Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Destination Cleveland and Downtown Cleveland Alliance, the program will provide outdoor dining placemaking kits that allow restaurants to expand their seating options with tents, tables, chairs and lighting,

Destination Cleveland’s website is also continuing to promote their Clean Committed program, offering a directory of more than 800 local restaurants, hotels, stores, art galleries and other businesses that are confirmed to be following state and federal coronavirus guidelines.

“If there was ever a time for Clevelanders to support each other, embrace the cold weather and illustrate our resilience, it’s now,” said Destination Cleveland President & CEO David Gilbert. “With the vaccine now being distributed, there seems to be a potential end to the pandemic in sight. To help ensure the businesses that encompass the heart of the Cleveland experience remain open… it is essential that we spend our dollars locally now.”

Running Feb. 19-28, the 2021 Downtown Cleveland Restaurant Week is another piece of the Winter Wonderland package that hopes to get people to spend those dollars. The event survives COVID by encouraging diners to opt for to-go meals in addition to reservations. Restaurants who participate will be promoted on the Downtown Cleveland Alliance social media channels and receive sticker decals for to-go packaging as well as flyers to send to customers.

Meanwhile, a new initiative called Eat & Explore CLE aims to bring new business to area locations starting with a campaign. Starting Jan. 13, anyone with the Destination CLE app can participate in a dining rewards program that will award them a $10 dining gift card to a participating restaurant.

“We understand the challenges faced by small businesses in our city neighborhoods, and we are proud to partner with community development corporations to foster safe, welcoming environments where residents and visitors can continue to discover dining and shopping opportunities throughout the city,” explained Tanie Menesse, the president & CEO of Neighborhood Progress.

Small businesses have been facing a number of obstacles due to the COVID-19 pandemic since March of 2020, when many restaurants and retail shops were shut down. Even after reopening, an unstable job market and lack of foot traffic have persisted in causing problems. Winter Wonderland is one of many plans started by non-profits in and around Cleveland after the health crisis began, and Gilbert and Menesse hope the synergy between the groups pays off.

Downtown Cleveland Alliance President & CEO Joe Marinucci summed it up: “The winter months are usually challenging for locally owned restaurants and shops, and “Roam the Winter Wonderland” provides a great opportunity for all Clevelanders to celebrate this season and support the small businesses that make our city exceptional, especially when they need us the most.”

Collin Cunningham is a freelance journalist who lives in Tremont. When he’s not writing or reporting, Collin likes to read, bike the city and spend time with his two lionhead rabbits, Curtis and Cloud.

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