How to support Salem small businesses, even during COVID-19 – Statesman Journal

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Whitney Woodworth
 
| Salem Statesman Journal

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Small Business Saturday continues to grow

Small Business Saturday isn’t even a decade old, but it continues to grow in popularity by the year.

In prior years, millions of shoppers spent the Saturday after Black Friday frequenting local stores, pop-up shops and markets in an effort to support local businesses.

This year, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and a partial shutdown, Small Business Saturday is shaping up to be smaller and quieter.

But, Salem business owners stressed, community support for local businesses has never been more important. 

«Making the choice to support and invest in our community has never had a bigger impact than it does right now,» said Al Tandy, owner of Salem Summit Company. «2020 has been a very difficult year for most small businesses and the winter months will likely be a make or break for many.»

During prior holiday seasons, the local outdoor goods outfitter in downtown Salem offered a selection of festive beverages and in-store promotions.

Tandy said they will be participating in Small Business Saturday, but is not sure what this year will bring. 

«This year is obviously very different and we have to operate with the utmost care and concern for the safety of our staff and community,» he said. «Our struggle is finding a way to operate on Small Business Saturday that creates a fun and safe environment and manages flow, as foot traffic is generally very high during this event.»

Different rules this year

American Express founded the shopping day in 2010. In recent years, 112 million people participated in Small Business Saturday, and nearly 90% of consumers said it encourages people to buy from local stores, according to American Express.

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The statewide two-week freeze in Oregon stretches to Dec. 2 and made no exception for Thanksgiving, Black Friday or Small Business Saturday. 

Restaurants are limited to delivery and take-out only, grocery stores and pharmacies are limited to 75% capacity, retail stores and malls are limited to 75% capacity, and gyms, event venues and museums are completely closed. 

Businesses like Salem Summit are able to operate with masks, frequent sanitizing and reduced capacity. 

«If you look past the masks and frequent sanitizing, holiday shopping in our store will look quite similar overall,» Tandy said. «We will still have a great selection of items to choose from and a happy staff ready to help you out — you just won’t be able to see our smiles behind our masks.»

Not all holiday shopping is proceeding as planned. 

Lisa Sherman, executive director of Salem Community Markets, said in light of the freeze, they made the «very tough and agonizing decision» on Nov. 17 to cancel all the remaining events in November, including those scheduled for Small Business Saturday. 

This year has been extremely difficult for small business vendors and artisans, especially after the 20-year traditional indoor holiday market at the fairgrounds was canceled to due COVID concerns, Sherman said. 

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But because of their desire to support vendors and artisans, Salem Community Market leadership scheduled a series of covered outdoor events and pop-up markets in partnership with several downtown businesses.

«We are hopeful that things improve over the next two weeks, things open back up for December and we are able to move forward with the December events as scheduled,» Sherman said. 

One Fair World, the nonprofit Fair Trade retailer in downtown Salem, will be open Nov. 28 but nixed their tradition of open house treats on Small Business Saturday due to pandemic health and capacity concerns.

Store management said they will be abiding by state restrictions on capacity limits, mask mandates and social distancing to provide a safe shopping experience for staff, customers and volunteers. 

They said small businesses are taking huge losses and struggling to stay afloat with fewer people shopping in person. 

«In a time like this, we must continue to make conscious choices to support fair trade as we shop for goods like coffee and tea, food, body care, home goods and more, and in so doing, support small businesses and producers,» said store leaders in an email. «Our hope is that through this crisis, small businesses emerge stronger and more connected as a global community.»

But it can’t be done without the help of the customers, business owners stressed. 

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«Supporting small business is always important, but it is crucial this year that we spend our dollars in our community if we want to ensure the longevity of our community,» Tandy said. 

Looking for more local businesses to support? The Salem Main Street Association has a downtown dining, shopping and parking map. 

A social media campaign by Travel Salemalso is underway to promote local restaurants and stores this holiday season. 

American Express also keeps a map of small businesses across the country, including dozens in Salem. 

For questions, comments and news tips, email reporter Whitney Woodworth at wmwoodworth@statesmanjournal.com, call 503-910-6616 or follow on Twitter @wmwoodworth

This story was underwritten by Atrio Health Plans.

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