Shopping Locally during COVID-19

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Yesterday the mayor sent an email asking me to press pause and go out from my home only for work, food, medicine, and solitary outdoor exercise. 

My county commissioners approved remote meetings this week after declaring a state of emergency last week due to the threat of coronavirus. There are two reported cases in the county, though that may mean a number of unreported cases according to the experts. 

The governor informed me today that one person has died from Covid-19, but he didn’t remind me that 54 people had died this season from the flu. It’s important to keep those numbers side-by-side to find the prudent way to act and avoid panic. 

Some parts of North Carolina are on ‘lock down’ more commonly called ‘shelter in place,’ including my beloved beaches, but I’m still free to move about my small town and support local businesses. And I’m thankful for that. 

When you know Tanya and Tyler and Eric and Wendy are baking and brewing and barbequing every day because it’s their livelihood, you can’t help but want to keep drinking your daily latte, eating the bagel and delicious pina colada cake, and enjoying the state’s best BBQ. Not because you’re hungry and thirsty, but because they are your friends and you care about them. 

Most businesses have a daily minimum, the amount of money they need to make to stay open, to buy supplies, pay employees, taxes, and to keep the heat and lights on. For a small business the difference between staying viable and closing can be like a rock and a hard place on any given day, but in a pandemic, that space grows tight. Some of my local businesses are shortening their operating hours to soften that space and keep the rock from crashing down upon them. My three-dollar latte means a lot these days.

This virus economy is affecting many businesses, but I’m not too worried about Food Lion (have you seen those empty shelves?) and Starbucks. Corporate stores and restaurants can share the misery across multiple locations. For example, a city, a more populous area, will have more potential customers and if half their customers stay home, they’re impacted but they still willmake more money than a small business. A corporation can share that wealth with a store whose sales slumped to a dangerous low.   

A small business doesn’t have that option because every day is make or break for them, and depending on the products they sell, there are cycles to consumer buying. Think ice cream in summer or hot coffee on rainy days.                     

Another neighbor needs my help these days. Farming is a business in which the largest outlay of cash comes months before the sale of products. That’s one reason I like CSA – community supported agriculture, in which you pay upfront for all your spring, summer and fall fruits and vegetables. You help the farmer when they need it the most. I know my farmer friends have invested a lot in spring seedlings and my new raised bed needs their lettuces, basil and thyme. My local Farmer’s Market won’t open until early May, but they are already planning opening day with special attention to the health and safety needs of customers. 

I respect that many folks are voluntarily sheltering in place because that’s what works for them, and if the time comes when I cannot go out and about, I won’t. I’ll stay home and find comfort in my books, music, family and the outrageous cat that shares our home.

Until then, I’m enjoying the redbuds that seem to be at an all-time bloom in the park, smelling the daffodils in my yard, and reveling in the fresh air of a small town. I am out and about, sometimes walking alone, sometimes with friends, careful to be at the appropriate social distance, remembering that this world is more than television news and political pundits. 

Kate M Carey writes from Lexington and Surf City, North Carolina. She’s hopeful that the spring and summer bring more joy than sorrow for the world.

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