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How to keep the local economy alive

If you haven’t noticed, there’s a virus going around.

At the time of this writing, the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has yet to make an appearance in Beaufort County, but it is already making a deep impact. Since the end of last week, businesses throughout the area have had to weigh difficult decisions about staying open, closing and making special arrangements to keep some sense of normality.

Probably the two biggest stories so far have been the closing of public schools for two weeks, then the mandatory closing of dine-in services at local restaurants. These are two tremendous decisions made at the state level that will have serious effects on daily life in Beaufort County.

For small businesses and restaurants, the prospect of closing down, even temporarily, is painful. From overall financial losses to not having enough work to keep employees on the payroll, the next few weeks are going to be crunch time for the business owners and employees who are also our friends and neighbors.

So what can you do about it? Here are some ideas on how to “spend local safely.”

  • Buy a gift card — This will help business owners weather the financial storm and allow them to come back strong when they reopen.
  • Shop over the phone or online — A number of local businesses are figuring out new and innovative ways to connect customers and their products, from online shopping and listings to curbside pickups of products.
  • Put an item on hold — Many of those same businesses are listing some of their merchandise online and can set aside certain products for pickup.
  • Pull up to the curb — With the restrictions on dine-in service at North Carolina restaurants, many local eateries are moving to a curbside service/takeout model. This can be a convenient way to get your favorite grub while limiting social interaction. Don’t forget to tip, as many restaurant employees rely on them for their livelihood. Maybe even consider giving them a little extra.
  • Leave a review or promote on social media — This one doesn’t require anything in the way of financial commitment. Rather, it just takes your time to help share a friend’s business online.
  • When things get back to normal, shop local — The longer the virus lingers, and restrictions on businesses stay in place, the tougher it’s going to be on local businesses.

There’s no question that there are tough times ahead for business owners and employees alike. How tough those times will be still remains to be seen. But if we can find ways to support one another, we can help make sure these places and people we care about will return as strong as ever once all this blows over.