Business Owners Hand Out Gift Cards to Help Local Restaurants

It’s not exactly a secret that the past year and a half have been challenging for the country’s small and independently owned restaurants, bars and other venues.

Now, with the end of the pandemic in sight and restrictions loosening across the state, two local businesses in Canby have partnered together to do their part in helping the local restaurants and watering holes they love.

Realtor Donna Ellison of Ellison Team Homes and Vanessa Zimmerman of Academy Mortgage are hosting doorbuster-style events every other month at a different locally owned restaurant, where they will offer live music, giveaways — and a $20 gift card to the first 50 families or couples who come in.

After two iterations — first at Wayward Sandwiches, then again at the Backstop Bar & Grill on Thursday — these “dine-in-a-paloozas” are already proving so popular that the businesses had to up the ante at their most recent event.

Realtor Donna Ellison speaks with guests at Thursday’s event outside the Backstop. Photo by Tyler Francke.

“We were hoping to serve 50 people, and we ended up serving 70,” Ellison explained afterward. “We weren’t unhappy about that at all.”

Organizers work with the restaurants to schedule each event — typically aiming for a weekday when traffic tends to be slower. Zimmerman, Ellison and their teams invite clients, friends and families out to make sure each restaurant feels the love.

“Canby’s such an amazing community, and we wanted to make sure that people feel loved and our businesses feel supported,” Zimmerman said. “We just invited people to come down, hear some live music, and obviously get some great food here at the Backstop.”

Vanessa Zimmerman and Desiree Sutton, of Academy Mortgage pose outside the Backstop Bar & Grill at Thursday’s event. Photo by Tyler Francke.

Live music came courtesy the six-time Grammy-nominated Americana artist Amanda Richards and the Good Long Whiles — who played country, soul, blues and folk-rock favorites on the corner of Grant and Northwest 2nd well into the evening.

Ellison said the restaurant and bar were packed Thursday, estimating at least 60% of the guests had been invited for the event.

“Every single person was raving about the food and the service,” she said. “We just love these guys and we want to take care of them, their staff, their cooks, everyone who’s been working so hard. And we wanted to take care of our clients and our community.”

Live music came courtesy the six-time Grammy-nominated Amanda Richards and the Good Long Whiles. Photo by Tyler Francke.

Ken Arrigotti, owner and operator of the Backstop Bar & Grill with his wife, Lori, was humbled by the gesture.

“We’re so thankful for the support — not only tonight, but over this whole last year,” he said. “It’s been incredible. It really has been.”

Find out more about Ellison Team Homes and Vanessa Zimmerman at and

Live music came courtesy the six-time Grammy-nominated Amanda Richards and the Good Long Whiles. Photo by Tyler Francke.

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