The Tyler community rallied and showcased its resilience during the pandemic through the Rose City Strong campaign.
As the economic, medical and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic reverberated across the world, the Tyler community rallied and showcased its resilience through the Rose City Strong campaign. Spearheaded by the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce and Visit Tyler, the campaign encouraged the community to support local businesses, health care and essential workers, and residents in need.
“We started the campaign early in the pandemic to bring community awareness and show that we were all in this together,” says Holli Fourniquet, vice president of marketing for Visit Tyler. “We organized information for people who needed resources – for example, information about when the food bank was giving out food. The food bank hosted several huge events where they had drive-thrus at our convention center, and people could drive through and pick up food, no questions asked.”
Handing Out Help
As part of the campaign, a Facebook page was created to highlight businesses and individuals going above and beyond to help their neighbors. Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt, for example, donated free yogurt treats to the CHRISTUS Mother Frances Hospital’s COVID-19 team, and Rose City Nutrition delivered community-donated healthy shakes and energizing teas to nurses, doctors, grocery workers and teachers. Plus, La Vera Restaurante Italiano donated pizzas to homeless residents, and Brookshire Grocery Company offered a 5% daily discount to customers age 60 or older.
“A lot of businesses that were doing well wanted to help other people out, but even those businesses that were struggling wanted to give back to the community. For instance, True Vine Brewing Company sold a special beer and donated the proceeds to other breweries that were struggling. Another example was the Montez family. They own the Villa Montez restaurant, and they provided meals to essential workers,” Fourniquet says.
“Tyler has always been a really tight-knit community, and it showed, not only during the pandemic, but later when we had the winter storm in 2021.”
Thanks a Latte
Support didn’t just stop there. In fact, it radiated throughout the community. Campaign supporters, including Esprezio Inc., a mobile espresso bar and cafe, Brookshire Grocery Company, Southside Bank, Central Baptist Church and SERVPRO of Tyler, sponsored free coffee giveaways for health care workers.
“We jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the campaign because (at the point of the coffee giveaways) it had been a year that nurses and health care workers had been on the front lines,” says Anne Myers, who, along with Danette Sublette, owns Esprezio Inc. “They’d been constantly working, and we wanted to let them know that, as a city and as a business, they weren’t forgotten. We were so thrilled to partner with all the different sponsors who contributed so that we could do this amazing thing for the health care community.”
Myers says they were able to serve all three of the area’s major hospitals as well as the vaccination clinic. A Chicago native, she says it’s nice to be a part of a community that “truly looks out for its own.”
“Tyler has always been a really tightknit community, and it showed, not only during the pandemic, but later when we had the winter storm in 2021,” she says. It’s just different here in East Texas, with neighbors helping neighbors and businesses helping other businesses. That’s really what the spirit of the Rose City Strong campaign was all about.”
To further assist the community, Visit Tyler sold T-shirts, hats, mugs and stickers to benefit the area’s tourism industry. Many local businesses displayed Rose City Strong stickers in their storefront windows or purchased T-shirts for their employees. Even public school teachers sported Rose City Strong gear.
“The tourism industry has been hit so hard, especially our hoteliers and really all our businesses in the tourism sector that were closed for a while. All of the proceeds from the sale of Rose City Strong merchandise went back into promoting tourism and tourism recovery for those businesses,” Fourniquet says.
A Rosy Outlook
Today, while Tyler continues to recover from the effects of COVID-19, the Rose City Strong sentiment is as important as ever and has become a symbol of the community’s spirit.
“We always say that Tyler is one of the rosiest places, not just because of the roses, but because of the people, and we found that it was no different during the pandemic,” Fourniquet says. “During a crisis, we come together — neighbors helping out neighbors and businesses coming together to help other businesses. There’s always a strong camaraderie here in Tyler, but during the pandemic, our community got even stronger. You might say ‘Rose City Strong.’”
A Rose City Strong T-shirt was one way Tyler residents showed their support for the communty during the pandemic. For more information and to get your gear, visit rosecitystrong.com.