NELDON: Support local business — at a distance

Published 7:59 am Saturday, April 4, 2020

Commercial districts across southwest Michigan are currently peppered with orange cones marking off space for pickup lanes, red heart stickers announcing to-go food is available and busy employees rushing in and out of restaurants for curb service.

The vast majority of small businesses across America have had their world turned upside down in the last three weeks. As social distancing measures have restricted face-to-face contact and large crowds, entrepreneurs have had to get creative to keep the lights on.

Restaurants have changed menus to more carryout-friendly options. Department and grocery store clerks have donned masks and gloves, stood behind sneeze guards and taken to wiping down carts and inventory on a regular rotation. Retail businesses have closed the doors to their brick and mortar stores and moved all business online. One Niles business changed its model completely, converting from a full-service bar to a beer and wine delivery service.

I have been moved by the can-do attitudes, tenacity and entrepreneurial spirit of these businesses. We have been excited to help them get the word out about the changes they are experiencing.

As we continue to shelter in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, there are ways we can support local businesses while keeping a safe distance. Some examples include:

• Ordering takeout or delivery from your favorite locally owned business. Take food out of takeout containers once you pick it up, and wash your hands thoroughly before eating or touching your face.

• Supporting small retailers by shopping their websites. Many brick and mortar retailers deemed “non-essential” have moved their businesses to websites, Facebook pages and Etsy shops. Many people laid off from their full-time jobs are relying on income from side businesses selling crafts, healthy snacks, makeup and more. Ask how you can help.

• Purchase gift cards online to be used after the pandemic is over.

• Order subscriptions to your local newspaper, or purchase advertising from local sources, rather than national brands, to keep your dollars local.

• Continue conversations with realtors, banks, loan advisors, etc. via phone or teleconference.

• Consider donating any excess hand sanitizer, antibacterial spray or other essential items to businesses deemed essential, so they can continue keeping customers safe.

• When inside a business, do not dawdle. While it may be tempting to make the best of your trips out of the house, the more time spent in high traffic locations, the more opportunities there are to spread or contract the virus.

Of course, following the CDC’s guidelines to wash hands, stay home and avoid contact with others if you are experiencing any illness should be top priority. Slowing the spread of this disease will be the best and most lasting solution to saving our local economy, so please be smart and considerate when utilizing services.