In the past few weeks we have entered into completely unexpected and uncharted territory as Americans. In the interest of “flattening the curve” or trying to slow the spread of COVID-19 by limiting close interaction with others to avoid a peak in infections and overwhelm our hospitals, many small businesses have closed their doors or limited their businesses. While I think we all have come to see the importance of this for our city and our nation, social distancing is going to have long-term financial impacts on so many small businesses. I found myself asking, along with many of my friends and neighbors, what can I do to support local small businesses during this time?
While ideas are constantly changing, I have prepared a list of ways we can all help to continue to support small businesses, even if we aren’t out and about in the normal ways:
- Buy gift cards now to use later. Many local restaurants, shops and boutique stores sell gift cards. Buy some to give as a gift for birthdays and Christmas. This helps put cash in the hands of local businesses that are struggling and gives you a gift to give later!
- Leave positive Google reviews. If you are like me, you’ve been glued to your phone following updates and get sucked into a very negative place. Redirect your attention by doing something positive. As you start going down the path of reading another scary article or Facebook post, stop and think of a local small business — that cute floral shop you love, your pediatrician or other doctor who has been great with your family, a favorite boutique store — and take the time to leave one or two 5-star Google reviews and write a note about why you love the place. Do it on Google because as a small business owner myself I can tell you that Google reviews are what people look at the most. Not only does this help local businesses, it also helps you to practice gratitude and gives you a happy feeling in a time when we all need a little happy. And trust me, as the business owner, it gives us a little spark of happiness too! Make it a goal to do this two or three times a day.
- Send flowers or drop off an arrangement or gift on your neighbor’s front porch. Local gift stores and florists like the Clay Pot, Genevieve Bond and Bud Floral and Home are open for business. Many local florists and boutique stores are open and you can stop by and do curbside pick-up. Run by and get some flowers or a small gift, and drop it on your elderly neighbor’s front porch with a handwritten note to brighten their day when they may be feeling very isolated.
- Pick up a yummy dessert or treat and surprise your kids or neighbors’ kids or maybe a local doctor’s office or hospital. Frios is offering pick-up of an insulated bag of popsicles that stays cold for 30 minutes. You can call and pre-order and pay over the phone and then pick up. The Hot Chocolatier has put together $15 boxes you can pre-order or have delivered for $8. Think about delivering a box of chocolates like The Emergency Stash (a box of truffles and baked goods) to your local hospital or pediatrician’s office where our nurses and support staff are putting themselves on the front lines to keep us healthy! A Grazing Plate offers charcuterie trays that are amazing and would make anyone’s day.
- Grab lunch or dinner from one of your favorite restaurants whose dining room is closed. Many restaurants have had to shut down their dining areas but are still offering drive thru service or pick-up. There are many great restaurants working to get a curbside pick-up going that we can support. Some of them include: Il Primo, Shuford’s Smokehouse, Jack Brown’s, Hummingbird Pastaria on Signal Mountain, and Charlie’s BBQ and Bakery. Consider tipping like you would if you dined in to help restaurant employees make a little extra money. Mindy B’s Deli is doing something really unique: you can go to their page and follow a link to pay $10 and have a “Front Line Meal” delivered to a local hospital, police, or fire station.
- Order pre-made meals and food from local companies. Local businesses like Chef and His Wife, Nourish Point, and Vibrant Meals offer pre-made dinners that you just have to heat up. This is an easy way to have some meals ready for you without all the effort. You can order a bunch at a time and they offer pick-up and, in some cases, deliver. Apple Spice catering will deliver pre-packed box lunches. EdenThistle is a locally owned farm and business that delivers pasture raised meat and eggs right to your door.
- Outside the Box. As our social distancing continues, many other local businesses are coming up with innovative ways to still serve their customers. Traveling Tutors is offering virtual tutoring sessions. With everyone trying to be homeschool moms these next few weeks, this is a service we could all appreciate. That Glasses Guy is offering home fittings for prescription glasses. CPR Cell Phone Repair is a locally owned business that remains open to save the day if your phone (AKA only lifeline to humanity) is acting up. Family Health Medical Providers can do telehealth medicine and can order tests or labs and even come to your home. Many local hair salons and stylists are offering home visits as well.
- Try a workout class online. Local gyms and fitness centers are another type of business that have had to close their doors to traditional workout classes. Many are offering online alternatives. This is a great opportunity to try of one of those classes you have been meaning to try but haven’t had the time. Of all times, a little exercise would do us all good! Southern Soul Yoga is offering free yoga classes via Facebook live right now. House of Balance is an online based and locally owned fitness concept offering online classes for $19.99 a month with no contract. With Echelon FitPass you can do equipment free classes with one of my fellow Chattanooga Moms writers, Jama Oliver. Our local branch of Fit4mom is offering online play dates to current and past members. Scenic City Bootcamp is offering online classes for its members.
- Shop Online, Locally. Local boutique clothing stores and other specialty stores are offering shopping online with local pickup. You can follow the Instagram pages for places like the Sandbox Children’s Boutique and purchase clothes locally to pick up curbside, or they offer free shipping. Southern Charm Clothing has three locations you can choose to pick up your clothes that you purchase online, and they will run your purchases out to you at the curb. Other stores like Alice Blue, Electric Blue and Hanover Blue and Embellish are offering similar pick-up type options. Fast Break Athletics is offering curbside pick-ups or delivery right to your door. Remember your favorite local stores like this before you choose to shop chain stores. This is a great way to support local small businesses.
As we navigate through a new and hopefully temporary normal, we have to continue to think about our health and the good of our community, and practice social distancing. If we all do what we can to support local small business owners and their employees, we can help minimize the crippling effects this virus has had on our local economy. We are all in this together, and while I think there is so much fear and almost panic, I do think this situation offers an opportunity to better appreciate the people in our community and come together to press through this time and come out on the other side of things even better.
Everyone has the opportunity to come together to help the local community and think about our friends and neighbors, and what we can do to make this time a little bit easier, whether that is a treat for your elderly neighbors or a meal delivered to local hospitals, or choosing to shop locally rather than online.