How You Can Help Local Restaurants & Small Businesses Survive The Coronavirus Shutdown

Photographed by Anna Jay.
The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent quarantine has been difficult for everybody — and unfortunately, it's unlikely to end anytime soon. One group the changes have been particularly hard on are small business owners and their employees. While major corporations and even some mid-size companies may have resources to fall back on, small businesses often have tight profit margins and some rely on foot traffic, as well as the disposable income of shoppers, both of which have been significantly minimized by COVID-19. Many may also be struggling with disrupted supply chains.
Wondering what you can do to help? We asked the owners of some of our favorite small businesses what they need in this moment. Whether it's placing an online order or just leaving a nice Yelp review, there's something on this list for every budget.

Shop, Shop, Shop (If You Can)

Chances are, you're stuck at home on your computer for most of the day right now, so why not take advantage and do a little online shopping for whatever it is you've been putting off buying? "If you’re able, the best thing you can do for a small business is shop," says Nell Diamond, founder and CEO of the home and lifestyle brand Hill House. "Many businesses are also donating a percentage of sales to non-profits, making it a better time than ever to shop. Hill House is offering a 10 percent discount and donating 10 percent of sales to God’s Love We Deliver and Room To Grow." And hey, how often can you defend your digital impulse buys with the knowledge that you're just doing your part to stimulate the economy? Be aware that some small businesses are shipping more sporadically than usual, as they may be operating remotely or only having one person in the office at a time, so patience is a virtue here.

Grab Some Gift Cards

If you want to support your favorite local bar, event venue, exercise studio, salon, spa, or other physical retail setting that's had to shut its doors, consider purchasing a gift card. Molly Lamb of New York's Skin by Molly also suggests ordering products online, and "buy[ing] a gift card for a stressed out friend too." In the case of certain restaurants, you an even buy a dining bond — say, a $100 gift card for $75 — that can be redeemed after 30 days.
"When the business is back up and running go see them! Use your gift card ASAP so the business feels busy to boost moral. And tip a tad extra if you can afford it," Lamb adds. This shouldn't exactly be hard, because when this is all over, we're gonna want a facial, a good workout, and a stiff cocktail, stat.

Buy Small & Local Whenever Possible

Even if you aren't in a place to drop a lot of money right now, chances are, there are certain things you're buying to keep you sane during quarantine. Instead of making those purchases from Amazon and the like, consider supporting a small business. For example: wine. You definitely want wine, don't you? "For those looking to support small family-owned wineries, you may order wine and gift cards from our websites. We thankfully can still ship our wines nationally, and the support from our loyal customers is really helping us keep the lights on," shares James Harder, co-founder of Tank Garage Winery in California.
"Think outside of the box in terms of home essentials purchasing," adds
Imane Fiocchi of Neon Lace Company, which makes hand-dyed table linens. "For example, buy hand soap online from your favorite apothecary, or purchase (my) linen napkins that are reusable instead of panic buying or hoarding paper goods."

Make It A Takeout Night

You know that guilt you feel when you Seamless a meal you could and probably should have just cooked yourself? Well, no need to feel that anymore, because plenty of restaurants are relying on takeout orders to stay afloat right now, and delivery apps like Caviar, Postmates, Grubhub, and Seamless are making it easy and safe to support them. So go ahead and take a break from pantry staple recipes to get whatever it is you're really craving. And once again, make sure to tip your delivery person as well as you can.

Stay In Touch

Just as you've probably been reaching out to friends and family more during these tough times, show your favorite small businesses some love, too. "Write a Google and Yelp review now if you’ve never done it before. This will make the owner smile and also help others to want to book because of how outstanding the business is," says Lamb. "Reach out via text or email to the owner or an employee whom you have contact with to tell them it’s going to be okay and you can’t wait to come back! Staying connected is so important right now."
Many businesses are also offering virtual classes, tastings, performances, and other activities, which is a great way to pass some time and stay engaged in your community. Check your inbox and social media to find out what's going on.

Give A Shoutout

Similarly, why not shout out some of your favorite businesses on social media? Or, if they're offering deals or fundraising on their accounts, go ahead and retweet them, or add their posts to your Instagram Stories. "Posting about your favorite companies is a huge help," says Diamond. "Don’t worry about your follower count — tagging a small business in your Instagram Stories along with some words about why you love them can be hugely helpful."
"Especially if you have a significant following!" adds Fiocchi. "Consider an IG Live to “meet" one of your favorite small shop owners  & share with your audience. Even during dark times — we'll all swipe up."

Donate Money To Help Workers

Brooklyn's beloved Win Son has been fundraising for its employees via Venmo (@win-son). "Donations will benefit workers with citizenship and document challenges. This virus is affecting everyone. We will extend this fund to benefit regular hourly employees as well if it supersedes the resources being provided to them already, but at this point, undocumented workers don’t have access to any relief or support. Your donations go directly into the pockets of employees who are being walloped by the social impact of this situation," the restaurant and bakery wrote on Instagram last week. Many restaurants, bars, and event venues across the country are also currently fundraising on sites like GoFundMe and Patreon.

Call Your Representatives

Independent restaurants and bars are being left out of the federal stimulus plan, and many in the industry, including David Chang, Tom Colicchio, and Cherry Bombe's Kerry Diamond, are using the hashtag #TooSmallToFail to urge people to call their representatives and demand that they be included in the plan.
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