That neighborly tradition faded away in many communities long ago but now, in conjunction with an Atlanta-based company, Barhorst is hoping to give a 21st century face to the gift basket.
Barhorst is a new franchise owner of Welcomemat Services — a company that links small businesses to new residents through special offers and free services. She thinks Manatee County, with its rampant growth and friendly residents, is the perfect place to start the franchise.
“I know when I first came here everyone welcomed us and you didn’t’ feel like an outsider,” Barhorst said. “I can give that same kind of friendly welcome to people.”
The company has businesses, typically restaurants, salons, car washes, dentist offices and attractions, pay a fee to provide coupons. Barhorst vets them all. In exchange, the businesses get detailed demographic data for the people who used the coupons as a direct mail marketing campaign to show return on investment.
“Where it used to be someone knocking on your door and bringing a basket full of goodies, we give you gifts,” said Brian Mattingly, chief executive officer and founder of Welcomemat Services.
Barhorst is one of 20 franchise units expected to open this year, representing 40 percent growth, he said.
Barhorst wished she had something like that for a salon when she moved to Palmetto 17 years ago.
“I went through the trial and error method,” she said. “I had a disaster. My hair is real thick and hard to cut. I went through a lot of different hair salons.”