File Photo.

ASHLAND -- Hello, friends, the sun is shining, the frost warnings are almost done, and the governor is opening up retail and restaurants this week. Things are looking up. 

I have to share with you all that I went shopping last week, and it felt wonderful. 

Like seriously, I had looked forward to it all week, and it was everything I expected and more. How often does that happen?  

Tuesday was my combo “pick up Mother's Day presents/load up for Cinco de Mayo” day, so I popped downtown, and picked up my gift and food orders.  Part of the giddiness came from being able to place an order, and unlike shopping online at national chains, I could pick up my goodies the next day, so there was a nice anticipatory buildup, but no struggle with massive long-term gratification (with which I do poorly, by the way). 

So, I did a full circle, Pick up at Fig & Oak, then get cupcakes and drink at Enjoy and Perk, chocolate pick up at Ashley’s Candy & Nut, and later, I had a two pickups. First, I stopped by Superior Merch, and then I picked up tacos and margaritas at Uniontown. (All of whom are also friends -- and members.  Thank you for your support.)  

Let me tell you, friends, that shopping was marvelous. It helps that retail therapy is one of my favorite pastimes, so selecting and purchasing items for loved ones definitely feels good. 

But it was most wonderful, because of the people.  It was glorious to talk to, visit with and absorb the love from the people I saw that day.  

Yes, I have been out at a big box store or two these past few months, but it was a different experience.  Why?  Because downtown is family.  It's because the whole heart and soul and purpose and meaning of a downtown is that it is unique and special and unlike any other, and the people who shop downtowns want those things. 

So, when you come into a downtown shop, it’s like when you meet that person for the first time who is destined to be one of your very best friends for life. It’s like coming home.

Also, because all of these stores are special, their merchandise is, too, and most importantly, so are their owners, so all those purchases I made are special, too. 

Do you know who is not hurting economically during COVID?  Big box stores.  People are still coming in and shopping them and supporting their bottom line (and their shareholders, 5,000 miles away). 

The two dozen chocolate roses I bought for the family moms from Ashley?  She made those for me, with her own hands, and by purchasing them, I am helping her and her family, who live a short five minutes away. 

Not only did I do this, but many of you did as well.  For all of you who shopped downtown for your moms, thank you. You not only bought your moms great gifts, you helped out our mom (and pops) here downtown.

As our friends across the way at the Gleaner said so eloquently, “we made it.” 

Our downtown stores hunkered down and devised a myriad of amazing ways to stay afloat during our lockdowns. From curbside pick ups to on-line sales to shipping to appointments to deliveries -- which I am now referring to as “COSAD,” you saw it here first, folks --  our peeps in the Main Street area have done what they could to serve you, their favorite customers, while we were all sheltering away. 

Now those retail and restaurant guidelines are loosening up, and we are welcoming you back downtown with open arms, and a few caveats. 

First, just because the governor has said retail and restaurants can open, not everyone is.  Some of our owners are still at home doing classwork with their kids. Some of them have undertaken some remodeling work in their stores that isn't done. Some of them are phasing in slowly and are maybe doing shorter hours and fewer days a week. 

Please check with your favorite stores to verify if they are open yet and when.  Some of our shops have hit this online thing out of the park and will continue to do the COSAD thing. 

Everyone is different (please see the “unique” thing above), so not everyone is doing the same thing as her neighbor.  Call, message, verify, then come see us, and them.  

Secondly, just because downtown is opening up does not mean you need to come down and experience it in person, if that makes you feel uncomfortable.  If you are worried about being downtown, then don’t come.  It’s that simple.  You are not a “bad” person for feeling way, and our stores are not “bad” businesses for being open.  This is a finger-pointing-free zone. 

The exciting thing about it being 2020 (still, we think), is that you can still utilize COSAD.  Again, call or message your store, and when you place your order, ask how you can receive it in a manner that makes you most comfortable. 

One of the best things about a downtown is that it is full of people who want to make you feel good about your experience and want to and are able to make that happen. 

Talk to your friends downtown and they will take care of you.  That’s what friends are for, after all.

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