It’s been a difficult 18 months, especially when we think back to the early days of the pandemic as we watched businesses across our communities adjust to state mandates after COVID-19 raged through our area. From limiting capacity to some businesses not being able to operate at all, many owners had difficulty adjusting.
Despite the lifting of state mandates a few months ago, many are still suffering.
As we look around more and more, places are closing or are in jeopardy of shutting down. In the last two weeks, we have heard the news of the Book Revue in Huntington set to close by Sept. 30. After 44 years of business, the village staple is in a financial hole.
The store had been shut down for three months during the pandemic. Once it was reopen, the business struggled to get back on its feet, and the owner fell behind on the rent.
To the east, Smithtown Performing Arts Center is having trouble holding on to its lease of the old theater. The nonprofit is also behind in its rent and has been unable to make a deal with the landlord, which led him to put the theater up for sale two weeks ago.
Both businesses received assistance during the pandemic. The Book Revue, like many others, was fortunate to receive loans through the federal Paycheck Protection Program to pay employees’ salaries and keep the lights on. For SPAC, the nonprofit received a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant but needs to have a full account of debts to be able to reconcile grant monies.
With the pandemic lingering, what many people are discovering is that the assistance just artificially propped them up for a short while. Now more than ever, local businesses and nonprofits need the help of community members to enter their storefronts and buy their products. When a consumer chooses between shopping or eating locally instead of online or going to a big chain, it makes a difference.
If one looks for a silver lining in all this, it may be that many business owners have come up with innovative ways to stay open, while others have embraced curbside pickup and created websites and social media accounts that will be an asset in the future.
And while it’s sad to see so many favorite businesses closing their doors, it also paves the way for new stores with fresh ideas to come in with items such as different types of ice cream or creative giftware or clothing.
Many of our main streets need revitalization and the arrival of new businesses or current ones reinventing themselves can be just what our communities need to reimagine themselves — and not only survive but thrive in the future.
We can all help small local businesses stay afloat, whether it’s an old staple or a new place. Because at the end of the day, if a store or restaurant has been empty and the cash register reflects that, we’ll see more and more empty storefronts in our future.
Spend your money wisely — shop and eat locally.