Community Issues

How You Can Help Your Favorite Small Business Stay Afloat During COVID-19

With businesses hurting because of the Coronoavirus, buying gift cards now to use later could make a big difference.

Margo Engberg, Alex Stupak, Steven Satterfield and Ti Martin all have something in common: they're all small business owners whose eateries are getting creamed by the coronavirus .

Engberg owns PinkaBella Cupcakes cupcake shop in Seattle, and Stupak is a chef and owner of Empellon restaurants in New York City, both cities hit hard by the epidemic.

Satterfield owns Miller Union restaurant in Atlanta and Martin runs Commander's Palace banquet hall in New Orleans, two cities which, so far, have low infection rates.

Yet all four say business is down so sharply because of Coronavirus fears they've had to lay off workers, delay paying vendors, cut their number of tables (in the case of restaurants) to spread them further apart, even close locations.

Margo Engberg says not patronizing small businesses (if you're able) could be "catastrophic for many."PinkBella Cupcakes/Facebook

The restauranteurs see no end in sight. "Like everyone, we are getting prepared for the very worst," Satterfield told the New York Times. Engberg agrees. She told the Seattle Times she is encouraged by promises of federal and local government loans for small businesses, but worries it will be too little, too late.

Without customers "we won't need any tax breaks,'" said small business owner Margo Engberg

So what can you do to help your favorite local dining spot or other small business stay afloat amid the quarantines and the new "social distancing" recommendations? Fast Company says if you don't feel comfortable going out to eat or shopping right now, consider buying a gift card or gift certificate to a locally owned restaurant or store.

Buying a gift card puts money in a businesses' bank account now, when they need itNick Nice/Unsplash

Gift card sales give a business cash flow up front, and you can spend your card or certificate when things get back to normal. Keep in mind if the business does end up failing you may lose the money you spent, so consider whether you can afford it. Fast Money also recommends keeping an eye out for any crowdfunding campaigns for businesses you support, if you're in a position to donate.

"We really need people to spend money," Natalie Freihon, managing partner of a group of New York City restaurants told the Times. "Even if they just go on our websites and buy gift cards. Any revenue will help us during this time."

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