In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it is more important than ever that consumers support local business whenever possible. (Special to The News)

Shopping local key to recovery – chamber

COVID reminder: Small business owners are your friends and neighbours who need support

By Monique Tamminga/Special to The News

Now more than ever, it’s so important to shop local to support small businesses that have been heavily impacted by COVID-19.

“Everyone is trying their best to stay positive, but COVID has been really hard on businesses,” said Ineke Broekhorst, executive director of the Downtown Maple Ridge BIA.

“Most are mom and pop shops in Maple Ridge who have invested everything into their business,” said Broekhorst.

“Maple Ridge residents should think about staying local. We are supposed to keep our circles small so stay in your own community. It helps businesses so much. The owners are your neighbours, your friends, and very appreciative of your business.”

For every dollar spent locally, 80 cents stays in the community, she noted.

Most small businesses took advantage of the $40,000 loan the federal government offered. While the loan helped tremendously, $30,000 of that has to be paid back, she added.

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The Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Chamber of Commerce has been working hard to liaise with governments and businesses to make sure they get the government support they deserve.

As of June 26, businesses eligible for CEBA (Canadian Emergency Business Account) now include owner-operated small businesses that do not have a payroll, sole proprietors receiving business income directly, as well as family-owned corporations remunerating in the form of dividends rather than payroll, said Flori Chaykowski, executive director of the Chamber.

“This means that more small businesses can access it,” she added. CEBA provides funds to small businesses that have lost income because of COVID.

Getting staff to return to work has been a challenge across all sectors and caused some businesses to reduce their hours, said Broekhorst.

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BUSINESSES PIVOT IN WAKE OF PANDEMIC

There have been some positives since the B.C.’s top health official Dr. Bonnie Henry announced opening up B.C. to phase 3.

“We have all been cooped up for so long, people now have an appetite for shopping and eating out,” Broekhorst said.

Shopping and eating local is surprisingly easy to do.

Local retail offers unique products and brands not seen at big box stores.

“Supporting our communities by feeding into our local economies is key to recovery,” said Chaykowski.

Whether restaurants and gift shops to nail salons and bakeries, safety regulations are all in place to welcome customers back safely.

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Restaurants have made all the adjustments necessary to keep their staff and customers safe, including reducing the amount of seating inside, frequent cleaning, and wearing masks. Some have been able to extend or create patio seating thanks to the city expediting patio permits.

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ENJOY A MEAL ON THE NEW PATIOS

Check out 224th Street for its transformation into this cool new place to sit on a patio, and grab a cool drink and some food.

“The city expedited patio permits at no charge and with no hoops to jump through, which made it a quicker process to help restaurants and breweries out,” said Kathryn Baird, tourism coordinator for the City of Maple Ridge. “The provincial government fast-tracked liquor licences and that also helped a lot.”

The patio at Silver Valley Brewing has been extended. Neighbouring Taco Fan has just built a beautiful patio for people to enjoy. Chameleon’s patio has also been enlarged. Ridge Brewing has a patio and more restaurants are planning patios, too, she said.

The city is working closely with the chamber of commerce and the DMRBIA, said Wendy Dupley, economic development director for Maple Ridge.

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FILMING IS BACK IN A BIG WAY

One economy that has seen a boom is filming, said Dupley.

“Filming has been crazy busy in the city since the July 1st restart of this sector,” said Dupley.

“We had eight productions in [late July] alone and five more in early August. The complexity of each has increased with the safety protocols required and an increase to the number of Maple Ridge locations each wishes to shoot in.”

The film industry plays a big role in the local economy. In 2018, $45.5 million was paid in wages to Maple Ridge residents working in the film sector.

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ONLINE PRESENCE IS NOW KEY

During the pandemic, many retail stores and restaurants pivoted, creating online stores and web ordering.

“Having an online presence is so valuable,” said Broekhorst. “A lot of businesses have survived because of online ordering, and people can either do curbside pick up or delivery.”

During the pandemic, local businesses have been innovative in quite creative ways, said Broekhorst.

“Some restaurants, like Big Feast, added retail, like groceries, to their business. The flower shop has been offering workshops online that have been popular. Some restaurants started doing delivery that hadn’t before.”

If we choose to support each other by shopping in our own community, we can get through this together, commented Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden.

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