Hang in there, local businesses
When we read about the COVID-19 pandemic in history books, Iím sure the economic downturn will be a major feature.
Itís no secret that the stock market has plunged over the past couple months as the unemployment rate climbs to great heights. Certainly, itís not an ideal situation. Itís scary enough that folks have been panic buying toilet paper and flouting social distancing precautions. When you add the economic problems, this pandemic begins to feel downright overwhelming.
Through all the panic and fear, Iíve been thinking about our local small business owners. Iím talking about the folks who own shops selling locally made items and those who run restaurants built on family recipes. We are fortunate to have so many of these businesses in our county ó itís something that makes Carroll County a special place to live.
As weíre seeing now, itís also something easily threatened by a global pandemic. For a city like Eureka Springs, itís especially damaging. Eureka Springs is built on tourism. The shops, restaurants and attractions all exist to serve the many visitors that come through during the year. So when tourism doesnít exist, it almost feels like the economy doesnít exist.
When I think of those small business owners that have spent their lives (and sometimes life savings) trying to make a living in Eureka Springs, I am filled with overwhelming sadness. Itís already tough enough to run a small business, from the cost of supplies to managing staff members and an online presence. You donít do something like that unless you love it. Anybody who has strolled through downtown Eureka Springs or dined at a mom and pop restaurant in our county has felt the love our local business owners put into their work.
I understand why so many shops have chosen to close down to slow the spread of COVID-19, but doing the right thing isnít always easy. Sometimes, especially this time, it can be debilitatingly difficult. On a community Zoom call last Tuesday, I listened to the concerns of our local business owners. While some shops are still open and some restaurants are offering carry-out, most have closed to the public. One business owner said he wasnít sure if his business could survive the pandemic. Iím sure heís not alone in that.
A community is successful when its people are successful. To have an unplanned, catastrophic event threaten that success just feels unfair. I know, I know. Life isnít fair. We arenít guaranteed any kind of success in this world, but itís a whole different animal when you see so much hard work undone by a crisis thatís totally out of our control.
We didnít create this crisis. Weíre just living in it, and thatís probably the scariest part. Having struggled with anxiety my whole life, I fully understand why itís so important to control what you can. This pandemic is a total loss of control. We canít predict when the economy will go back to normal, or if it will go back to normal at all. Simply put, we donít know whatís going to happen.
Thatís pretty scary, but our local business owners havenít used it as an excuse to roll over and die. They are still meeting, still planning, still envisioning a future no one can predict. They are coming together in a time where unity is our only remaining survival tactic. I tell myself this every day, and Iím sure itís a mantra many of you are also living by: We are all in this together.
So how do I think the history books will tell the story of the COVID-19 pandemic? Iím sure theyíll talk about the economic downturn, but I hope they donít forget about the humans behind the economy. This is the time to work together, and thatís exactly what our local business owners are doing.
And if you ask me, itís what will carry all of us through this pandemic. Iíll say it again, because it never hurts to remember: We are all in this together.