Feasting on everything from tuna tartar to samples of wedding cake, more than 900 people packed Jungle Island’s Treetop ballroom to see the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce’s INcard business stimulus program brought to life by more than 100 retailers who joined in for the free “Taste of the INcard” 2nd Anniversary celebration.
“I can’t imagine my life without the INcard,” exclaimed City Commissioner Deede from the stage, as she read from Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower’s proclamation, which declared that day, June 29 “Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce INcard Day.”
In the proclamation, Mayor Bower lauded the program for flourishing, and, in just two years, growing to the extent that it has now distributed 350,000 cards and includes 300 participating vendors. The program, which is administered by the Chamber, offers the free cards to both residents and tourists, entitling them to discounts and special deals at participating restaurants, hotels, spas, retailers, and other businesses.
Among those celebrating the program’s success was Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce Chairman Jason Loeb, who served as the program’s host, and called upon speakers Jerry Libbin, Chamber President and CEO, former Chamber Chairman Aaron Perry, and representatives of City National Bank, the program’s main sponsor, along with others. Loeb, with the help of a drum fanfare, also presided over scores of giveaways from the participating vendors, which ranged from hotel stays and steak dinners to angel healings, and everything in between.
“City National Bank was founded 65 years ago in Miami Beach, so we know firsthand the kind of quality service, fun and unique establishments you can find in Miami Beach”, stated Jorge Gonzalez, President and CEO of City National Bank.
“Thanks to the INcard, you can experience the many businesses that offer special values and discounts, which is why City National Bank is proud to be an INcard sponsor,” said Dustin Symes, first vice president at City National Bank, the major program sponsor. Symes was also “raffled off,” in that a lunch with him at Capitol Grille served as the kickoff for the giveaway portion of the program.
“This is wonderful to see. I’m thrilled to look about the room and see how this program has succeeded through the efforts of so many,” said former Chamber Chairman Aaron Perry, who is credited for leading the Chamber’s efforts in the execution of the business stimulus program, which began as an initiative of Mayor Bower’s 2009 Blue Ribbon Task Force on Tourism, in sponsorship with the Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority (VCA).
But, although Perry got to cut the first slice of the anniversary cake, he also lauded many others for the part they played in helping to initiate the program. “VCA Chair Elsie Howard and VCA Executive Director Grisette Roque Marcos played critical roles. We could not have made it without them,” he said. In addition, Perry lauded Mayor Bower, Miami Beach City Manager Jorge Gonzalez, “Mr. Miami Beach” Michael Aller, THE GMCVB, Chamber Executive Board Member Stephanie Ruiz, and he also gave a special acknowledgement to Chamber Marketing Director Valerie Rasken “whose hard work and commitment to the program pays dividends every day.”
At the event, the participants clearly enjoyed themselves, wandering from table to table, chatting with retailers, signing up for promotions, entering raffles, and feasting on samples from numerous restaurants, cafes, bakeries and more. Jungle Island provided pasta stations, and some of the food items included sushi, tuna salad and hummus, grilled chicken, and even samples of wedding cake.
Offering deals and special promotions were participating businesses, including Equinox Fitness Clubs and Spas, the Miami Herald, CBS Outdoor, Comcast, Plum TV, Welcome & Bienvenidos Magazine, were also on hand. The event also drew arts organizations including the Arts at St. Johns, the New World Symphony, and the Miami Beach Design Preservation League. Also taking advantage of the opportunity to showcase their work were non-profit organizations including Ability Explosion, a weeklong event held in October to raise awareness of the achievements of the disabled and the need for community wide accessibility.
Local retailers, like Marilyn Walker, the owner of Walker’s Beautiful Baskets and Things,” was effusive in her praise for the INcard program. “You couldn’t buy this type of exposure, and you get it as a free perk for being a member of the Chamber,” she said. She credited the exposure from the INcard with helping her business raise its profile. “Whenever people go to the Internet looking for baskets from here, I’m the first one they find,” she said.
Alfred Fayo, of Norkie’s Rotisserie & Grill, a new Peruvian eatery on Washington Avenue was also effusive in his praise, saying the program is providing him with an influx of customers, which so critical to a business just starting up. “I’m doing a lot of business, I have more customers coming in, and more people are enjoying my good food,” he said.
Jose Colon, the manager of the Best Buy on Miami Beach, said he was also impressed by the turnout, and that his store is considering joining the INcard promotion. “We just joined the Chamber three weeks ago, so we have to consider it, but so far, we are very impressed with the energy we feel here,” added Colon, whose store donated a $75 gift certificate as one of the event’s giveaways.
Participating businesses belong to the chamber. There’s no added cost for a business anywhere to join or benefit. The program’s website features all businesses involved, from museums to restaurants to law offices, making special offers to cardholders. Details can be found at www.miamibeachincard.com.