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The Main Street business community was thrilled by the purchase of more than $22,000 in gift cards by a local manufacturer for its Middletown employees operating on site during the pandemic.

In all, 1,500 Downtown Business District Gift Cards, at $15 each, were given to employees working at Pratt and Whitney’s Middletown production and assembly facility on Aircraft Road. The sum represents one-third of the district’s typical sales, according to DBD Coordinator Sandra Russo Driska.

The announcement was made at Thursday morning’s Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Central Business Bureau meeting, which had about 75 attendees on Zoom. Many lauded aerospace manufacturer Pratt & Whitney’s commitment to the city’s small businesses heavily affected by COVID-19.

“Thanking our essential employees by buying them lunch at a local restaurant felt like a small way we could support the community,” Sonny Mehta, associate director of Pratt & Whitney’s Product Delivery Center, said Thursday. “We decided everyone who was operating out of Middletown was going to get a thank you, vis-à-vis these gift cards.”

In an average year, the DBD takes in about $60,000 in sales of the cards. Last year, revenue was down because of the pandemic, but still reached $45,000, Russo Driska said. “My hope is they use them for parking, purchasing gifts, food or drinks,” she said.

The cards can be used at some 90 restaurants and other merchants on Main Street, including Krust, Stella D’Oro, Fiore II, Powder Hollow Brewery, NoRA Cupcake Co, Pokemoto, Tibetan Kitchen and Perkatory Coffee Roasters; as well as Public Market, Mike’s Barber Shop, CityHair Design, Middletown Framing, P.J. Jewelers, Spread Cheese Co., and Lastrina Girls Bridal Salon.

This is the first time the company has distributed such incentives at the Middletown site, which employs about 1,500 workers, Mehta said. “Knowing how hard small businesses in particular have struggled during the COVID-19 outbreak, Pratt wanted to give them a little boost in business.”

Not only will Pratt & Whitney employees benefit, but local merchants will, as well, Mehta said. “This was a win-win. It was the idea of doing right by all the COVID protocols,” he said. “… As a company, we recognize an opportunity to give back to communities where we operate. This was a nice way to do it.”

Patronizing local businesses is more crucial than ever during the pandemic, Chamber President Larry McHugh said during the meeting.

CBB Chairwoman Pamela Steele told attendees that lately there has been misinformation circulating that certain places are no longer operating, which is not the case for those she has learned about.

To view participating merchants, see

Following lunch, locals can enjoy the nearby Wadsworth Mansion parklands and trails.