Fireside Bookls

Ruth Hulbert [left] and Mary Ann Cockle [right] hold books about the Valley's colonial history and the modern day Bingles used as gift card at Fireside Books and 44 other participating locations across Palmer.

PALMER — The Greater Palmer Chamber of Commerce is working with local businesses to encourage people to do their holiday shopping in town with their evolving Bingle and Shop Palmer programs.

The Palmer Chamber established the use of Bingles as Palmer-specific gift cards last year to incentivize local shopping in a unique way while paying tribute to the community’s colonial history.

Historically, Bingles were a special form of currency the federal government distributed to the original Mat-Su colonists to use in designated locations in Palmer.

Fireside books employee, Ruth Hulbert said they’ve received several Bingles this week.

“It’s a fun nod to Palmer’s history,” Hulbert said.

While the currency itself never took off in the 1930s, the inspirational successor has already proven to be a fun and popular program enjoyed by the shoppers and participating businesses alike, according to Palmer Chamber Executive Director Ailis Vann. She said they’ve received a lot of positive feedback, greatly encouraging them to continue growing the program.

“It’s kind of a cool part of Palmer’s history. We’re already doing better with this Bingle program that they did in the 30s,” Vann said with a laugh.

Bingles are wooden, locally crafted coins that can be spent like cash at participating locations. Vann said that on top of their historic look and feel, Bingles offer a fun and unique way to stuff stockings for friends and loved ones as well as a thoughtful way to give gifts to colleagues or those you don’t know that well. She said it’s an all-around effective way to help the community do their holiday shopping while supporting the stores they shop at every year.

“They’re pretty cool. Everybody really likes it. It turned out really well,” Vann said.

The Palmer Chamber reimburses participating locations while selling Bingles directly and incorporating them into their community efforts such as Colony Christmas. Vann said they’ve sold and given away about 30,000 Bingles through various giveaways and shopping programs such as Shop Palmer.

“We don’t make any money off it. It’s solely for the benefit of the community and the businesses here,” Vann said.

Each holiday season, participating Palme businesses stamp punchcards, giving local shoppers the opportunity to win free Bingles. Customers can pick up punchcards at participating locations across Palmer and collect stamps from Nov. 20 through Dec. 20.

“It keeps it local. It keeps it in Palmer. I think it’s a fun, creative program,” Fireside Books owner Mary Ann Cockle said.

Vann said this is their fourth year running Shop Palmer and there are 45 participating shops to choose from this year. Each punchcard contains a list of sites. Vann noted that there’s a lot of crossover between participating Shop Palmer and Bingles businesses and the two programs complement each other very well with only a few exceptions.

“I’m really excited and I think it’d a testament to the work the chamber has been doing over the years to get more business involved. It’s huge,” Vann said. “We know that money is being spent in Palmer.”

According to Vann, there will be five drawings offering $500 in Bingles per week and a chance for all names in the raffle to win $1,000 in Bingles at the end of this year’s Shop Palmer run.

The Palmer Chamber will be selling Bingles at a booth during Colony Christmas.

Bingles can be purchased year-round at the Palmer Chamber office or over the phone. For more information, call 907-745-2880 or visit

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at

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