I am just one of dozens of local businesspeople who I know all feel as I do, that the outpouring of support during this time of national crisis is endearing, heartwarming, uplifting — well, the list of adjectives goes on and on.
The lines of cars at our drive-through windows, the bulk orders for carry out and delivery, and the countless supportive comments on social media have moved me to tears.
And yes, I am not going to gloss over or ignore the financial help it provides to our small businesses that operate on extremely slim margins.
When Gov. Andy Beshear closed restaurants and bars to dine-in customers, we all knew we wanted to stay open, but wondered how the public would respond. So, not should we stay open, but could we stay open?
In my mind, if we could just cover our costs (expenses and payroll), staying open would be the right thing to do. After all, the governor included us in the list of “essential services.”
Well, the response has been overwhelming.
While businesses of all types are closing around the globe, we are able to keep the lights on and keep our employees on the payroll. As hundreds of thousands join the ranks of the unemployed, our workers — really our family — are still working.
And don’t forget the trickle-down effect, in several directions. For one, paying our employees allows them to take care of their loved ones, continue paying their bills and keep food on their tables.
For another, every day we are open we are placing orders with our suppliers and vendors, we are using utilities, and we are collecting sales tax.
So, why is the public responding the way it is? I think there are numerous reasons, a few being:
• In times of crisis, we pull together; we do the right things. So while we are all hurting, all worried, we support local. One thing we all have to do is eat, so we wait extra minutes in a drive-through line to support our locally owned businesses.
• As numerous studies over the years have shown, more dollars remain in our community when spent locally. A well-known study years ago of bookstores found that of each $100 spent at local independent stores, $45 of secondary local spending occurred, compared to $14 for a big-box chain. So we spend local so more of that money will help other members of our town.
• We’ve all seen the crowds and empty shelves at local grocers. So, while we must go there at some point, driving through a local restaurant is a chance to avoid that scene for a few days and have a meal of your choosing that you don’t have to cook yourself. In addition, we are seeing larger orders, knowing people are buying enough for more than one day and/or freezing some for a later date.
• Many people, for good reason, are spending more time at home and/or are suddenly forced to work from home. A trip through a local drive-through provides an outing away from home that is safe and relatively short in nature.
• I would not have thought of this reason, but those on social media are quick to point out that this is a way to say thank you, to give back to those of us who help the community through various civic, athletic, religious and charitable donations. No business owner could possibly help every organization that submits a request, and we all have our own process for selecting who to aid. We all do our part, and if that is a reason some are now supporting us, well, thank you.
None of this, incidentally, means we should not also continue to support, at our own choosing, the many fine company-owned or franchisee-owned national restaurants in our community. There simply is a natural tendency to “support local” during a time such as we find ourselves currently in.
For that, at least from this local business owner, let me say how much we appreciate it. It means more than you can imagine.
Dan Liebman is former editor of Blood-Horse and The State Journal. He is the owner of Staxx BBQ. He can be emailed at email@example.com.