Laura Soper: Small Business Resiliency in wake of virus

Well friends, it’s been one crazy week. As we navigate this maze of mandated shutdowns, social distancing and quarantines, one thing that never fails to amaze me is how our small business community shows resiliency and the ability to adapt through periods of uncertainty. During Gov. Larry Hogan’s news conference last Thursday, he said: “The worst times have ways of bringing out the best in people.”

Laura Soper.

That statement rings especially true in our community.

Over the last few days, we’ve seen businesses look at new ways to operate and our community has rallied behind them in support.

Fitness centers respond

The mandated closure of fitness centers has forced a lot of gym proprietors to get creative. Chelsea Lahey, co-owner of Galaxy Gymnastics, has been creating videos focused on skills that her students can practice during the shutdown.

In regards to the videos she’s been making, Lahey said, “We have over 300 kids that come into our gym weekly and some of them come up to 5 times per week. When we are so uncertain of what is going to happen over the next weeks, kids will crave normalcy; a sense of familiarity.

“These kids talk to me, create memories, and hang out with their best friends at my gym. I started making videos of gymnastics skills kids can do at home so they can see a familiar face, so that they can get up and move, so that they can feel that everything familiar isn’t gone.

“They know through these videos that I miss them and at the end of this, Galaxy Gymnastics and Maryland Twisters will still be here, waiting anxiously for them to come back. Not everything has to change, especially our love and support for our local kids.”

Crossfit Salisbury owners Cameron Ball and Adam Blaney were also affected by the mandated closure. Instead of ceasing operations, they started creating workouts that their members can do at home and allowed their members to “rent” equipment, such as barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells at no cost during the shutdown.

Both The Athlete Academy and Soul Yoga Studio have started streaming live yoga classes via Facebook for the entire community to participate in, allowing for anyone to stay active during the quarantine period.

Restaurants stay afloat

Restaurants have also been hit hard by the mandated closures but have found new ways to try and stay afloat during this period.

During the Mayor’s Emergency Business Round Table last week, Rob Mulford of Market Street Inn Restaurant highlighted the criticality of the seven days following the mandated shutdown.

Most restaurants had ordered their inventory for the week before learning that they would be forced to shutter a substantial part of their business operations.

This left a majority of restaurants with an overstock of food items that would spoil without their regular customer foot traffic. Recognizing that need, the community is rallying to support these restaurants through a surge of carry out and delivery orders.

Spreading the love even further, several businesses, such as Gillis Gilkerson, True North Group, Live Oak Home Builders and KindSBY, have sponsored meals from local restaurants to help feed health care workers on the frontlines of this pandemic.

Businesses stepping up

I began writing this before Hogan’s closure of non-essential businesses. As the pandemic has evolved, our retailers and beauty salons were mandated to close as of 5 p.m. on Monday.

While we can no longer patronize these businesses in person — as well as many others — for now, there are still some great stories that evolved over the past week.

For example, Edit Downtown Salon recently received a $500 donation from Pittsburgh-based Petrack Plumbing to help during the shutdown. Stylists there are paying it forward by providing free haircuts to small business owners.

In speaking with the well-known stylist Marissa, she explained the decision to pay it forward was an easy one.

“We are all in this together,” she said. “Giving back to the people who support us will keep us stronger in this tough time and unite us once again when the time comes to get back to work. A haircut might be a small, but feeling good about ourselves will make a difference when it comes time to come back and crush it again.

“The biggest downside will be the economic hardship that we might face,” Marissa said, “but Missy and I are certain we will be back and better than ever with the community support we have behind us!”

In terms of retail, many retailers have shifted their shopping online.

While Vernon Powell has offered online shopping for many years, they are strongly pushing people to their website by offering free shipping for online orders and curbside pickup if you call them up.

Social media has played a vital role in helping local retailers sell off some of their food stock. While many of the local grocery stores sold out of their staples early on in the week, local retailers like How Sweet It Is and Williams Market used social media to share the available locally sourced meats, dairy and produce they have.

Personally, I express my heartfelt sorrow and concern for the businesses that have been affected by these closures, as there is a long road to recovery ahead. I look forward to the day when the community can rally and support them as they reopen.

No one knows what the days ahead will bring, but I do know that Salisbury is a community in which people take care of each other. The most important thing to do now is to take this pandemic seriously and to take care of yourself and your family by taking all appropriate measures to keep this virus from spreading.

If you have any ideas on how the City of Salisbury can help their business community, we are accepting recovery tips and ideas at coronarecovery@salisbury.md.

Laura Soper is the Business Development Director for the city of Salisbury.


Helpful Coronavirus links

Maryland Department of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage

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