How do you support a local business when the country is forcing them to shut down, then open with heavy restrictions? How do you survive when your customers are told to stay home? Those, and myriad other, questions have run rampant through the mind of every business owner in our community over the last eight-and-a-half months.
The constant changing of the rules to keep themselves afloat and keep their customers safe: what do you do? As our amazing businesses have proven, you think outside the box. You follow the rules that Dr. Bonnie Henry has set out and create new ideas to stay open.
Fear of the unknown created panic shopping for the most bizarre items. Home cooking and gardening created avenues for relieving stress from the pandemic, which created shortages of items on the grocery store shelves. Did our businesses shut down and throw in the towel? No! They set up tables outside their doors and sold items that people in the community were finding hard to get. When the rules were relaxed, they began opening their doors by following the strict guidelines set out for their type of business.
They refused to give up, and the community supported them. They created outdoor patios with all the safety precautions so that their customers could enjoy fresh air while they dined and even listened to music. Even more amazing is how those businesses worked together to support each other.
COVID-19 has been devastating — that much we can agree on — but it has taught us to never take our health for granted, and never underestimate a small business. But how do we move forward in this second wave? Well, we put on our masks, wash our hands, use social distancing, and buy as many of the things we need as possible from the businesses in our community.
Which brings me to Christmas and what that will look like this year. It will probably be the same with regard to the decorating and the twinkly lights, or we could throw ourselves into the holiday spirit and decorate a little more to make the community really festive. We may not be able to have the Santa Parade, but we can go for a drive around town or a walk around our neighbourhoods and enjoy all those wonderful decorations.
Then there is the gift giving: what to do, what to do. There are only five weeks left until Christmas. Yes, you heard right: five weeks! Where did the year go? Maybe we need to think outside the box when it comes to buying our gifts this year. Maybe we need to focus more on needs rather than wants, or on those “wants” that may seem small or insignificant to us but are very much appreciated by the ones receiving them. Things like books, a membership to the gym at the HUB, a unique item of clothing, handmade crafts from one of the markets coming up, a lovely piece of art, essential oils, tea, candles, jewellery, kitchen tools, gas cards, gift cards to local restaurants. There are so many ideas, and they are all available in our community.
I challenge you to check out the local shops, and I bet you will be amazed at what you can find. Buy your gifts from those we know. We all have friends who have their own businesses, so let’s show them some love and shop local for Christmas this year.
Nov. 27 is Plaid Friday, and due to COVID-19 we are doing something a little different. We are asking all of our businesses to participate in some form or another, and their supporting customers will be able to receive a free gift courtesy of the Village of Ashcroft. If you spend a combined $50 or more at any of those participating businesses on Nov. 27, you can bring in your valid receipts to the village office and we will give you an adorable Love Ashcroft canvas tote. So keep your eyes peeled for the Plaid Friday deals. Even though they have endured financial setbacks, our local businesses are still going to go out of their way to help the community have a great Christmas.
Fun fact: for every $100 you spend in your community, $46 gets put back into the local economy. The more we shop local, the more our businesses can accommodate you by staying open longer and creating more jobs, which means financial stability. It’s a win-win!
So don your masks, wash your hands (or use sanitizer), observe all physical distancing rules, and go shopping. The local economy needs you.
Margaret Moreira is the Economic Development and Tourism Coordinator for the Village of Ashcroft.