Gowanus boat club launches raffle to help keep small businesses afloat

Brad Vogel
Gowanus Dredgers boater Brad Vogel urges locals to support neighborhood businesses.
Photo by Owen Foote

Members of the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club launched a series of raffles last week to support local entrepreneurs and artists facing great financial loss during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re really trying to do something that keeps both the small businesses and the arts afloat,” said Canoe Club Captain Brad Vogel.

Earlier this month, the local paddlers pooled their resources to buy $2,000-worth of gift certificates and merchandise from small businesses in the neighborhood in an effort to immediately divert cash into the pockets of local restauranteurs and retailers. On March 24, they began raffling them off online, according to Vogel.

“Making those cash infusions quickly is important as we await help from the government,” he said.

The group plans to host three raffles per week through April, each of which will have a $5 buy-in. From there, participants can “bid to win” and the boaters will send any profits to the local non-profit Arts Gowanus, which supports the neighborhood’s artist community.

Prizes for the upcoming auction include a pair of tickets for a sunset voyage tour on the canal with the boat club and $20 gift certificates to neighborhood eateries and watering holes like Surfish Bistro, Runner & Stone, Dirty Precious, and My Cuban Spot. The next drawing is Wednesday, April 1.

This isn’t the first time the kayakers have raised awareness for local businesses amid the coronavirus crisis. Two weeks ago, the group ventured into the canal holding up signs urging Gowanusaurs to support homegrown enterprise. They’ve since posted an online list of businesses and how to best help them out.

Vogel said that the initiatives have drawn neighbors closer together during these extraordinary times.

“It’s been an incredible response by the ecosystem here to the threat,” he said. “If nothing else, businesses have made it clear the morale boost that this gives and the sense of community.”