Helping our communities means buying local — especially during a pandemic

If we still want our favourite local shops to be around when this is all over, we have to make small investments in them now

Supporting small shops helps keep our neighbourhoods thriving. Photo courtesy of Massy Books

By: Devana Petrovic, Staff Writer

Most people can probably agree that it’s been a heavy couple of months: social restrictions, event cancellations, and the overwhelming pressures that come with existing during a global pandemic. But even in these difficult times, it is important that we do not turn our backs on the community actors that are particularly struggling to uphold themselves — the family operated corner stores, the hidden gems of independent coffee shops, and any number of the beloved non-chain shops that don’t have the economic benefit of being loaded with crap-loads of investment capital. 

While there are several ways we can support our local businesses, such as prioritizing family-owned grocers for essential items, leaving generous tips at restaurants, and buying gift cards from temporarily closed stores, the important thing is that we make an effort to preserve our local economy. Without many of our small, local businesses we would lose much of our unique culture — not to mention increase the economic vulnerability of our communities. 

Local businesses characterize neighbourhoods, connect communities, and offer alternative services to large corporate entities. There are several products and services that we enjoy that are produced and operated locally — like breweries for example — which we may not even know supply an entire economic ecosystem in our communities. 

And then there’s the small, every day sort of establishments like our favourite bars and restaurants, local hair salons, and even the laundromat that are as much a part of our neighbourhoods as any house or apartment. Consider what the commercial landscape of your community would look like if these small, locally owned businesses were to disappear. 

Since our current state of crisis is compromising the viability of some of these businesses, we can help them out by steering our consumerist needs toward more locally owned businesses. Times are hard for everyone right now and we can only give what we can afford to give, but if we lose local small shops, it’s going to be the cold, corporate big box stores that take their place, and sanitize out even more of our local flair.

The good news is that many of our local stores are still open during the pandemic. The next time you go to buy a book off Amazon, consider taking your money to Massy Books instead. You can also choose to order takeout from locally adored restaurants like Simba’s Grill, which is available through several delivery services. Moreover, you can also do your online shopping via small business websites (a complete list is available on Small Business BC’s marketplace), and supporting funding initiatives when you can.

This pandemic may be limiting our ability to uplift our community in the same ways we would normally be able to, but that does not mean we shouldn’t do what we can to support the greater good of our economic and cultural climate. Buying from small businesses is an easy way to show support to our community and make a positive difference in the lives of our neighbours. We have the power and ability to help each other out in our communities; it can be as simple as making local choices.