“Unfortunately, the past can no longer survive in this post-pandemic world. If these walls could talk, they would tell beautiful and sad stories of many lives.”
This is the message printed on a sign hanging in the window of an iconic 24-hour diner down the street from where I live in Chicago. It had been serving up patty melts, milkshakes, and cups of coffee for nearly 60 years, but in the end, it simply could not survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stories like these are common around the US and the world right now, as small businesses are being hit hard by the pandemic. From stay-at-home order closures to a future of severely limited capacities, they’re finding it extraordinarily difficult to make it through.
As of mid-May, economists believe more than 100,000 small businesses have shut their doors permanently due to the pandemic.
Source: The Washington Post
Despite these challenges, some small businesses are managing to pull through. Of course, owners are still struggling to make ends meet and employees are working extra hours in order to make this possible.
Still, of those that are surviving this pandemic, many small businesses are recognizing a country in need and are finding ways to give back.
Because they deserve our sincere gratitude and we all could use a little more hope in the world right now, here are just a few ways small businesses are lending a hand to support those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. They’re providing meals to healthcare workers and restaurant workers out of a job.
Food is the way to many people’s hearts, but right now, it’s become more than just a kind gesture. Healthcare workers on the frontlines need fuel to make it through their chaotic days, and meals sent by small businesses make it so there’s one less thing they have to worry about.
For instance, Les’ Creative Hands LLC in Chicago, a small fruit sculpting business, has been supplying lunches for nurses at hospitals on the Southside of the city. Each week, along with her team, founder Leslie Horne brings boxes full of nutritious food to thank nurses on the frontlines.
Another company in Chicago, The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group, knows firsthand how the pandemic is affecting the restaurant industry. Pre-COVID-19, they operated 19 locations. Now, they only have 3 — and they’ve had to lay off around 600 workers.
They’re not leaving their team members — or restaurant workers in general — without assistance, however. At one of their locations, they debuted the Chicago Restaurant Workers Relief Center, which provides laid-off workers with a meal and a bag of groceries to go.
2. They’re switching from making spirits to hand sanitizer.
Whiskey, rum, and other spirits used to be the name of the game for distilleries across the country. During the pandemic, however, many are trying their hand at producing hand sanitizer instead — and they’re finding themselves to be quite successful.
One family-run distillery in Pennsylvania, Eight Oaks Farm Distillery, has pledged to make hand sanitizer for as long as there’s a need — which is, right now, around 2,000 bottles a day. (Bonus: Thanks to this switch and tapping into savings, they’re able to retain and pay all of their employees.)
The toughest part has been finding the right ingredients and supplies, but thankfully, many community members are donating to the cause, which helps fuel their mission.
3. They’re donating their personal protective equipment (PPE) to hospitals.
Personal protective equipment is hard to come by these days, as the pandemic has led to much more stringent requirements to keep frontline workers safe. So when some small businesses who also use PPE — such as nail salons — had to close their doors, they figured they could at least put their equipment to good use.
One nail salon in Mobile, Alabama, called Top Nails 2, donated its entire inventory — a couple of hundred masks and 8 boxes of gloves. They weren’t the only ones, though. After one local pharmacist in Mobile made a request on Facebook, dozens of other salon owners banded together to donate over 134,000 pairs of gloves and 23,000 masks for the cause.
In Brentwood, Tennessee, another salon, called Zen Nails, is taking it a step further by making masks and gowns for local healthcare workers. One of the co-owners used to work as a registered nurse, so she wants to help out her fellow nurses in the best way she knows how.
Supporting Small Businesses — So They Can Continue To Support The Community
Owners of small businesses often have deep ties to their communities. Whether they grew up there or they’re transplants who’ve come to love their town, they rely on the support of the community for their success. Plus, their success is directly related to how much a community thrives, including boosting real estate and providing work to local community members.
During this pandemic, small businesses are facing some serious hurdles, and many are finding it tough to keep their doors open. If you’re able to, now is the time to support those local small businesses that you love. Whether it’s ordering take out from your favorite small restaurant or purchasing a gift card from your local salon, they would undoubtedly appreciate your support.
There’s a lot of uncertainty in a global crisis. But these examples show how capable we are of moving forward together — empowered by connection, support, and purpose.