SLOAN COLUMN: Please support your local businesses
You have heard this plea many times before, I’m sure. You need to hear it again. Now, more than ever, our local businesses and establishments need our support.
I assure you not one has been immune to the damaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Save fast food restaurants, which one would feel certain have benefited greatly from this outbreak, businesses of every kind have had their budgets bludgeoned by the coronavirus. The only way they will manage to survive is if people make the extra effort to patronize them.
Folks, small businesses are the lifeblood of a community. They add to the diversity and the flavor of downtowns and neighborhoods. We need them as much as they need us.
Some businesses could not survive a week without being open, let alone a month or longer as some estimates are saying. Many business owners fear that once they close they may never reopen.
Here are some easy and creative ways to help your hometown businesses stay afloat during this unprecedented and uncertain time.
Buy a gift card: Businesses need cash flow right now, and the easiest way to help them out is to buy some gift cards to use down the road. Lots of shops are offering gift card bonuses right now, so treat yourself. Even better, treat someone else. Email a gift card that lets your nurse friend order some after-work tacos. Donate an art store gift card to your local school. Or stock up on cards from coffee shops, nail salons, yoga studios and bookstores to hand out as gifts down the road. It may be hard to believe, but Mother’s Day, birthdays and teacher appreciation week are still going to happen this year. Get your gift-shopping done now when it can make a huge impact on a struggling local business.
Get delivery: Hanging out in your favorite diner is not a good look at the moment. Luckily, most restaurants and shops have stepped up options like delivery or curbside pickup so you can minimize contact with humans. If you can afford it, commit to ordering in a few meals this week.
Shop local online: Lots of local shops keep at least some inventory available to order online. That boutique bag you’ve been eyeing? The great piece of local art? Now's the time to treat yourself. This is a perfect time to support indie bookstores, too. Many of them have closed to the public but are offering free shipping, curbside pickup and local deliveries.
Tip like a boss: It’s a crappy time to be a waiter, delivery driver, or barista, because not only are they likely working fewer hours, they’re getting fewer tips from their nonexistent customers. If you can afford it, make someone’s day with a massive tip.
Skip the refund: If you missed a local show that you had tickets for, consider writing it off as a donation instead of asking for your money back. Now’s also a great time to sign up for that membership to your local nonprofit arts association or subscribe to the summer theater series.
Schedule a service for later: Coronavirus has created the ultimate cancel culture, but all those missed reservations and skipped services are stressing out local workers. If you can, schedule work with a cleaner, a painter, a plumber, a contractor or a salon. Simply knowing that work is coming their way can alleviate some anxiety and make a big difference in helping them weather this difficult time.
Donate locally via GoFundMe: Visit GoFundMe, which has a designated landing page aggregating local fundraisers in support of small businesses around the U.S.
Say thanks: All of us are mega-stressed right now, but local business owners worried about their livelihood have a special level of anxiety. Send a thank you note or an email to let them know that you see them and you're thinking of them. A little compassion and connection right now goes a long way.