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by Sadie Romero
December 03, 2020
by Sadie Romero
December 03, 2020
For the past eight months, instability and fear have been at the forefront of small, local businesses. These are the same small businesses that, previous to the pandemic, worked strenuously to serve our communities as a foundational asset of our local towns, cities, and villages. Now, they need us. As community members, we have the power to help strengthen them as statewide regulations become stricter in the coming months.
The state of Illinois recently moved to Tier 3, meaning there is an indoor seating ban for all restaurants; lower capacity limits for stores by 25% for major retailers and 50% for grocery stores; and temporary closing of public gathering places, such as museums and theaters.
Health and government officials have said repeatedly we are in for a long, hard winter. DuPage county alone is suffering a 113% increase in community transmission numbers, in just one month from October to November. As COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, we see more and more buildings that were once the home of small businesses now vacant.
“If we don‘t shop local, we are going to have more empty storefronts,” said local business owner Shannon Burgess. “The more empty storefronts, the fewer customers to go to those restaurants, and restaurants being strong is a big draw to retail shops. It is all connected.”
Burgess is the fifth owner of The Bookstore of Glen Ellyn right in the heart of downtown. The 60-year-old shop has been able to stay afloat during these uncertain times, because of its surrounding businesses, she said.
“Truly, we are stronger when our downtown is stronger,” Burgess said. “And all of the small little businesses are stronger if all of us make it. If you have a variety of places to eat and places to shop, it makes it more of a destination.”
Here are five ways to support small businesses while also strengthening the local communities:
Many areas have Facebook group pages, commonly named “What’s happening in...” followed by the name of a given town or city. Oftentimes, local businesses will post their special offers on these pages, allowing the community members to have access and share the posts across the social platform. Other small businesses might have a community board open for the public to share their business cards, flyers, etc.
Restaurant regulations have been among the strictest throughout the duration of the pandemic and continue to be. Some family-owned restaurants can no longer look to outdoor and patio seating as a stream of income to get them through financially. Indoor seating has become limited again, and the cold winter conditions coming may repel customers from dining with these restaurants. If they do not have the means to invest in outdoor heaters and fire pits for the colder temperatures - as some of the bigger chain restaurants do - order takeout from a small business instead.
Before ordering from Amazon, Target, or various other major retailers, look at smaller stores or vendors. If you are looking to buy a specific product, look at the local shops near you to see if they sell something similar. Most shops are offering contactless, curbside pickup for their customers, free of charge. If you are looking for the convenience of getting a product delivered to your home, look at individual vendors on websites like Etsy.
In July of this year, Amazon reported a 63.3% growth in their stock, comprising just seven months of 2020, according to Forbes. Meanwhile, stores that sell some of Amazon’s same products are shutting down across the nation.
“Once people start going to Amazon, that is what is killing independent stores and bookstores around the country,” Burgess said.
Purchasing gift cards from local shops and restaurants give the businesses immediate profit while granting the customer leniency to use it at any time since they rarely expire. As the holidays approach, gift cards can also be an easy way to give a present while eliminating the risk of timeliness. For no physical contact, they can be put into an envelope and simply mailed to the person you are giving it to, just in time for Christmas.
Reviews and recommendations can draw in new customers, drive business, and boost public image for local shops and restaurants. Since Yelp is linked to Apple Maps, that is a very popular source people look to when deciding upon a restaurant. There, you can also add photos to go along with your experience, which appeals to those viewing it. On a more personal level, you can even recommend a restaurant or shop on your social media platforms, and tag the business’ account. Every person has their own network of followers, which can only expand a customer base.
“Find it here. Buy it here. Keep us here,” said Burgess. “In other words, shop local. That is going to help all of our businesses make it through this, and that will keep our downtowns vibrant places.”