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In this column, Sandra Tunnell of Ashland Main Street speaks about the importance of supporting local businesses in the coming weeks. 

ASHLAND -- Hello, friends!  No, it did not take a pandemic to get me out of my writing about downtown hiatus; plans were in motion to get back into the groove of writing about the grooviness of downtown Ashland, and then our friend COVID-19 came along, and here we are. 

So with events and schools and worship and all closed, whatever is there to write about?  Seriously?  Downtown of course. 

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If you are a follower of these articles, or of our Facebook page, or anything else Ashland Main Street-y, you know how important it is to support our downtown business owners. Owning a small business is hard. It is just you, or maybe a handful of employees, and any shift out there impacts you much more that it does a big box large retailer. 

Is Walmart affected by a decrease in shoppers or a falling stock market?  Sure, but by sheer size, they and their big friends can weather most storms.

A drop in foot traffic to a small business, especially a sustained drop, can shutter its doors.  Ten fewer shoppers in the mall is nothing.  Ten fewer shoppers in a downtown business can mean layoffs, or worse. 

So while our downtown economy has been growing steadily, there is always a concern about what’s out there, and what is it now?  Some crazy virus that is forcing us to stay away from people and inside our own homes.  Uh-oh.

You also know from our writings on downtown how much we love it when we see so many of you support our downtown businesses and want to know how you can help.  We have been blown over by the support and calls to action we have seen to shop local and support our businesses.  Thank you.  

It’s so gratifying that when we ask for your help, you give it. Yes, that includes all of you in line at Perk this afternoon buying lunch. Thank you for your support.  

To that end, the Ashland Main Street page is keeping an up-to-date list of who is open downtown and how they are helping you shop and support them. 

Our downtown restaurants are still selling food and drink. You just have to come in and get it. A few are working on delivery options, and we’ll keep you updated on those. 

Call ahead, place an order, pick it up. It’s like fast food, but you’re supporting your neighbors instead of a corporate powerhouse.  You’re gotten your toilet paper and bottled water and survived hundreds of people under the same roof; you can definitely come downtown and shop with 15 of your friends who are 6 feet from you. 

If that is not an option for you, don’t worry. Many of our downtown retailers are also thinking outside the box on ways to help you shop and support them.  Several of our businesses are offering curbside drop off and delivery.

Numerous downtown stores have an online shopping option.  One of the best things about small local businesses is that most of the time, you are talking to the owner of the business when you walk in, so if you need something, call them up and they can usually make it happen.  

We have been training for this for years, friends. We have been asking you since day one to come downtown and help your friends and neighbors by shopping their stores. Now, let’s put that exhortation to the test. Call, e-mail, message, text- find out if your favorite local shops have something you need and want and how you can get it.  We can still walk around outside. Let’s support our downtown while we can.

Thank you, as always, for your support, and we will see you downtown.