Now is the time to care for the small businesses we love




Whiskey Row in downtown Prescott. Photo by Scott Blackwell | Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Economic stimulus packages have made it through Congress and are making their way into the hands of small business owners. I’m happy to hear this, but these funds do not replace our individual support of the small businesses around us.

When I visited Prescott for the first time about a decade ago, I loved the downtown area and the plethora of local businesses. All of Prescott’s store fronts, restaurants, and other establishments depend on the regular business that we bring them.

During the first part of the COVID-19 health crisis, I told the members of the congregation I serve that we needed to protect our own health just as flight attendants tell us to put on our own oxygen masks before helping our children. Now, as we enter the second month, as we continue to protect our health and others, it is time to turn outward and consider the economic and social web of small businesses that depend on us to survive.

Wherever we live, each of us has been supporting a web of local businesses and we need to support them through this crisis. They will remember the support of their neighbors when this is over. Let us show that they are important to us by looking for what we need right here.

My brother, Andrew Willis, a small business owner and consultant in Utah, passed on some tips for keeping small businesses alive during these times. Don’t order from big online conglomerates unless you can’t find the product locally. Do order online from local businesses. When you have a good experience, post on social media. Be patient when hours are reduced or there are fewer employees. If you have a favorite restaurant that is temporarily closed, call them up and order up a gift certificate for the time when they open.

Call up the owners of places that you frequented and that are now temporarily closed and tell them how much you value them. Share your thoughts and ideas of how they might serve you better and encourage them to keep going. Feel good that you are supporting the fabric of our community.

I am ordering yarn from my favorite yarn store that I can pick up outside the shop, sketchbooks from a beloved art supply shop, vegetables from the farmer’s market and gift certificates twice a month from a delicious restaurant that we hope will be in business when these emergency measures have been lifted. I am ordering books from a favorite local bookshop that I can pick up outside, and a three-toed sloth puppet that is going to lift my spirits and be the vehicle of many future stories.

What are the places that you will be sad to see an “Out of Business” sign on the window?  Now is the time to reach out to these small business owners who have put their hearts and souls into our community. This is how we will create trust and build a community that will outlast whatever comes our way.