With the state and nation facing more restrictions by the day, local business owners have been among the first to feel the economic repercussions of the pandemic.
Moorestown’s Main Street, with its array of restaurants, boutiques and salons, is being challenged to find new ways of staying afloat while following state guidelines imposed to keep residents safe.
No one can say for certain when the restrictions will end. So with all “non-essential” businesses shut down, the Moorestown Business Association and the township’s Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) are giving serious consideration to how residents can support local businesses during a tumultuous time.
Kate Wilson, the chair of EDAC, stressed first and foremost that now is a critical time to support local stores, but it’s even more important that businesses follow the state’s protective guidelines and practice social distancing.
“All of them are working incredibly hard to stay in line with the guidelines,” Wilson said of Moorestown’s retailers.
With that in mind, she encourages residents to think local before turning to big-box retailers like Walmart, Amazon or Home Depot, all of which will most likely emerge from the pandemic in better economic shape than mom and pop stores since they can still.conduct business online.
Wilson added that residents should consider calling local businesses to see if they have products customers are looking for. Stores like Moorestown Hardware are still open and offer curbside pickup to ensure social distancing.
Restaurants have had to take a new approach to doing business, Wilson noted. Many are offering take out and delivery options, so residents can still enjoy local eats from the safety of their own homes. Wilson said those who are wary about ordering food can support local eateries by buying a gift card to use once current restrictions are lifted.
EDAC has compiled a list of Moorestown restaurants that are still open to offer takeout and delivery options. Wilson has been circulating the list among Moorestown Facebook groups to get the word out.
Some businesses have gotten a bit creative. Wilson cited Gypsy Soul Boutique as a prime example; the store now showcases its products on Instagram and offers free shipping.
Wilson said now is also a prime time for people considering home improvements. And prior to the pandemic, the demand for homes was outpacing supply. Real estate agents are moving to virtual home showings, and when things settle, they say, people will still be interested in moving to a community with a strong school system.
Steven Pazienza, president of the MBA, said with the restrictions and guidelines changing rapidly day to day, it’s difficult to offer local businesses concrete advice. But his primary recommendation is that businesses minimize expenses where they can.
Pazienza also echoed Wilson’s sentiment about residents shopping local. He said runs on certain household items such as toilet paper have underscored the supply chain issues that can occur with big business, so residents should consider shopping neighborhood stores for some of those items. Meanwhile, he added, local businesses should work on reinventing themselves and building their online presence so their business will be on a customer’s radar during an online search.
“People really want to have the same convenience of bigger companies but have it locally,” Pazienza said.
MBA has been engaged in discussions about starting a fund for local businesses. The challenge is that it will need to generate an “enormous number” of funding before businesses can get relief.
Pazienza said he strongly recommends businesses reach out to the Small Business Administration to find out what disaster relief funding they’re eligible for. Their priority should be finding strategies to weather the storm.
“People will come back,” he said. “You just have to survive.