On both sides of the border, orders mandating the closure of all non-essential businesses have been in place for just over a week, and at this time it is impossible to predict how long the closures will last. Social distancing and staying at home should help to mitigate the spread of the virus, but it also threatens to devastate small businesses.
The tens of thousands of small businesses across the North Country and Eastern Ontario are the backbone of our local economy. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of jobs they generate, small local businesses bring vibrancy and energy to the main streets of our cities, towns and villages and help make our region a great place to live.
As our federal, provincial and state governments are beginning to offer financial help and other policy measures, there also are some small ways that individuals, if they have the means, can help their favorite small businesses stay afloat through the crisis:
- Purchase a gift card online to use at a later date. This will help the business with cash flow (they still have bills to pay despite many of them being temporarily closed). Many restaurants, hotels, museums and retail shops make these available online; here is one example from our region: http://www.clipperinn.com/clipper/index.php/order-gift-certificates-online/
- Shop online at your favorite local retailer. New websites are springing up around our region to make this easy – here is an example from Kanata https://www.shoplocalkanatanorth.com/
- If you have a membership or subscription to a business, continue paying it if you can or reach out to see what other options they’re providing at this time.
- Although restaurants can no longer offer eat-in seating, many are still offering takeout or delivery. In Watertown, you can find many options at: https://www.wwnytv.com/2020/03/18/north-country-eats/ And here is a great new delivery option just launched in Ottawa with a wide selection of local, chef-run independent restaurants: https://responsiblechoice.ca/lovelocaldelivery/
- Tip your service provider in advance for future services. Professionals who depend on tips like hairdressers and nail technicians will appreciate the timing.
- Open a tab for future services at a business you know you’ll patronize in the future.
- Donate to a GoFundMe or Kickstarter campaign set up by many of our local businesses.
- Have a local restaurant charge your card for a specific amount, then reach out to first responders and health care providers and let them know that coffee, lunch, etc. is on you. This past week, a generous donor bought $400 worth of sandwiches from Vito’s Restaurant in Watertown for workers at Samaritan Medical Center.
- Many artists are still working in their studios. As events and gallery showings are postponed, work that artists made to display is now for sale through gallery and/or artist websites and social media accounts. Here is one example from a WPBS program host https://www.everythingriver.com/ Or, if you want to “do it yourself” check out Wilson Bickford’s online store: https://www.wilsonbickford.com/shop
- Many musicians and performers are organizing virtual online concerts to try to stay in touch with audiences – usually there is a small fee to “attend”. Or, support your favorite bands by purchasing digital and physical copies of their work or merchandise on their website – the portion that goes to the artist is much greater than they receive from streaming services.
- When you support a local business, shout it from the rooftops via social media. Share, like and comment on their posts. Take a photo, tag the business and let your friends and family know how they too can help our local businesses during this time of uncertainty.
We may not be able to control much of what is happening but we can control how we come together as a community. Here at WPBS we know firsthand the importance of local businesses – it is their support that has helped us deliver on our mission of service to this region for over 60 years. At their time of need – let’s all give back a little to the businesses that have given us so much. Thank you.