Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: There’s Never Been a More Important Time to ‘Live Local’

Small businesses are an essential part of Falls Church and one of the reasons why our community is so unique. They provide delicious food, great entertainment, and much needed personal and professional services that help make Falls Church a livable, walkable area. They also contribute significantly to local PTAs, athletic and music boosters, scouts, sports teams, assistance for low income students and families, homeless shelters, programs for people with disabilities, nonprofit arts organizations, and local events. They employ friends and neighbors and generate sales, meals, and business taxes. They are our friends, our neighbors, and significant contributors to our community. They make it possible for us to Live Local.

As we all face health fears for ourselves, our friends, and our loved ones, our small business owners are also dealing with the uncertainties of what is to come. They have rent, payroll, supply bills, and other expenses in addition to their personal expenditures. They feel responsible for their employees’ health and wellbeing as well as their employees’ abilities to buy food, pay rent, and care for their families. And for many, their small business is their sole source of income.

For those lucky enough to have discretionary income or be in salaried positions with the ability to work from home, there are several ways we can support our small businesses.

• Arrange for take-out and delivery — many restaurants are offering hands free options for pick-up and provide delivery. And if you can, tip generously.

• Purchase items from small businesses online or over the phone.

• Purchase gift cards for your own use when appropriate or as birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or other gift giving occasions later in the year.

• Schedule appointments for consultations via phone, Skype, Facetime, or Zoom,

• Keep your fitness memberships,

• Purchase multi-session packages for future use or use them for virtual classes,

• Continue to pay your at-home service providers such as cleaners or dog walkers,

• Consider contributing to funding pages set up via GoFundMe, PayPal, and Venmo,

• Post helpful, supportive reviews on Facebook, Yelp, and Google,

• Connect on social media by responding to their posts, staying up to date on their activities, and sharing posts.

Governments at all levels are focusing efforts on ways to help small businesses. The federal government, through the Small Business Administration, has authorized Injury Disaster Loans for small business owners to help businesses cover payroll and other costs. What will be even more helpful is a new program in the pending stimulus package that would provide loans that could convert to grants. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth of Virginia has deferred sales taxes and local jurisdictions, such as the City of Falls Church, are considering a variety of ways to support local businesses such as easing signage requirements to enable businesses to put banners out and operate from their sidewalks.

But government can’t do it alone, especially given the many priorities right now. We must all work together to preserve our community. Restaurants have found ways in which to provide food safely while keeping some employees working. Professional services, fitness, wellness, counseling, and child-focused businesses are offering virtual meetings and classes.

Some are creating new ways to support their fellow businesses and those in need. For example, Diener & Associates is offering free consultations to businesses applying for the SBA’s Disaster Injury loans while Falls Church Tech support is offering 12-month payment plans for businesses that need help creating virtual meetings and events. Zoya’s Atelier is making masks and the Neighborhood Barbershop and real estate agent Alison Miller have created Facebook pages to gather volunteers and share information about local needs.

Partnerships have developed as well. Falls Church Distillers and Ekoe Health created a hand sanitizer available to residents for free in small quantities or at cost in larger quantities while Galleria Florist and Dominion Wine & Beer partnered to deliver flowers and wine to residents. These offers of assistance and partnerships are being shared on the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce’s Live Local Falls Church! Facebook Group, open to area residents, businesses, and employees.

Created to support November as Live Local month in Falls Church, the Live Local Falls Church! Group has expanded to allow businesses to share news and changes in operations, and it is serving as a portal for information, and as a hub for those interested in supporting our precious small business community.

We don’t know how long this pandemic will last but we do know that for now at least, our business community is doing what it can to keep us safe. It seems the least we can do is support them while trying to maintain as much normalcy as possible. Let’s all keep a safe distance, wash our hands, support our local small businesses, and Live Local Falls Church!

Sally Cole is the executive director of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce.