Guest Viewpoint

Tis the season to be jolly, but for many small business owners, it’s anything but.

Consider the current state of affairs:

•Bars and taverns are closed; indoor dining has been suspended at restaurants; and event spaces are prohibited from hosting gatherings.

•Retail stores are restricted to 25-percent capacity, and grocery stores and pharmacies are capped at 50 percent.

•Indoor group fitness classes are prohibited, and gyms are restricted to 25-percent capacity.

•Businesses that offer personal services, such as salons and spas, are restricted to 25-percent capacity, and they are prohibited from performing services (such as facials) that require the removal of facemasks.

Taverns, restaurants, retail stores, fitness businesses and salons comprise a big portion of the small-business community in the 19th Ward, and the restrictions are hitting them at a critical time. Like many businesses across the country, they are relying on holiday shopping dollars to keep the lights on this year, much less to turn a profit.

Indeed, a “Small Business Recovery Research” survey conducted by American Express found that 62 percent of U.S. small businesses said that customer spending needs to return to pre-COVID levels by the end of 2020 in order for them to stay in business.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to “shop small” this holiday season.

The Beverly/Morgan Park and Mt. Greenwood communities are home to hundreds of wonderful small businesses offering an array of unique and diverse products, including, but not limited to, books; vinyl records; bicycles and accessories; baked goods; groceries; gourmet coffee; fresh juices and smoothies; candles; gifts for babies and toddlers; women’s and men’s apparel and shoes; baking supplies; hardware; furniture; flowers and plants; seafood; jewelry; antiques and collectibles; gourmet popcorn; housewares and home decor; sewing machines and fabric; running shoes and active wear; craft beer, wine, spirits and cocktail mixers; handmade chocolates and candies; and self-care items such as organic skincare products, hair styling products and handmade soaps.

These communities also have an impressive assortment of businesses that offer services ranging from the practical to the indulgent: fitness classes and gym memberships; dance classes; interior design and home repair; automotive repair; landscaping services; art classes; dry cleaning and alterations; personal care, grooming and wellness services; and personal and business coaching. Those are among the many local services that make for great gifts for the holidays—or any other time of the year.

Of course, no list of local small businesses would be complete with mentioning the places we go to satisfy our hunger, thirst and desire to gather and connect with other people. Our neighborhood restaurants and bars are the heartbeat of our commercial districts, and they play an essential role in the social, artistic and business life of our community.

The gift of food is always appreciated, and carryout orders and gift card purchases will help sustain these local businesses—and their employees—until we are able to safely gather again indoors.

While it’s hard to compete with Amazon or Walmart for prices and convenience, local businesses are working diligently to meet the needs of their customers by extending business hours, digitizing portions of their operations and providing amenities like gift wrapping, delivery and curbside pickup.

Can’t or don’t want to wait in a line at a store? Go online or call to place your order—the majority of business owners are ready, willing and able to accommodate their customers and provide a joyful holiday shopping experience.

Saturday, Nov. 28, is Small Business Saturday, an annual event launched by American Express in 2010 that celebrates the impact that small businesses have on communities across the country. Here in the 19th Ward, it’s also a day for local residents to express our thanks and support for the businesses that have chosen to invest in our community.

So, take a stroll through one or more of our business districts and explore all that our community has to offer. You’ll most likely take care of that shopping list—and feel good knowing that your effort to buy local this holiday season will help prevent us from saying next year, “Goodbye, local.”

Editor’s note: Caroline Connors is the executive director of the Morgan Park Beverly Hills Business Assocition.