Small businesses plan as holidays approach

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San Diego County moved into the COVID-19 purple tier on Nov. 10, setting tighter restrictions, giving local businesses large and small three days to comply. With Small Business Saturday coming Nov. 28, this left local chambers of commerce struggling to help their members prepare for a restrictive holiday season.

La Mesa Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Mary England said the three-day grace period was necessary as it left many businesses having to make tough decisions.

“I can’t just sit in a bubble,” said England. “Especially now, the businesses need their chamber or some advocate more than ever because of all the changes in the ways we do business. It takes time to figure out what you are going to do, particularly the restaurants. Some may want to go out and invest now in tables, chairs and tents as they did not do it before. Everything changes. They have not been making a lot of money and they must make that decision with their staff and partners, deciding whether to do outside dining or shut down.”

San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Rick Wilson said the chamber has been working to promote Small Business Saturday with a “boots on the ground” campaign. But with the new restrictions in place, it is now doing all of its marketing virtually. He said people should continue to support businesses within their communities.

“Drop your dollars on local businesses throughout East County, purple or not, COVID or not, it is educating everybody to shop your small businesses,” said Wilson. “Even if you are getting gas, get it locally to help with business taxes that come out of that and help your local community.”

Wilson said regardless of COVID it is marketing for Small Business Saturday. “That means up to Poway, east to El Centro, south to Spring Valley and west to La Mesa,” continued Wilson. “Don’t go to Walmart, don’t go to Home Depot, try and hit your local mom and pop nursery, retailer, restaurant. Go to the stores, lunch, breakfast or dinner takeout, support your local business.”

Lakeside Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Kathy Kassel said its chamber stopped just promoting Small Business Saturday a couple of years ago. She said they kick off a campaign for shopping local that day, but the chamber promotes more than a month-long drive to shop local through the end of December. The chamber’s slogan this year is Keep the Cheer Here.

Kassel said the chamber will supply coupons for local businesses online and in person to encourage people to shop local first.

She said the chamber is encouraging local businesses to decorate for the holiday season to make Maine Avenue more walkable to attract more people.

“Even in good times, shopping local is important,” said Kassel. “People should always be thinking about supporting small businesses. They depend on the community supporting them. Mostly the shops. Some retail, restaurants, gyms, beauty and nail salons have been hit the hardest. And they have the strictest regulations thrown at them. We have also asked businesses in downtown to decorate for the holiday season to make Maine Avenue more attractive and walkable for people.”

Kassel said supporting your own community must be the entire emphasis now, even the nonprofits. She said the chamber is limited for its many events and that nonprofits have lost the ability to hold their largest fundraisers of the year due to the pandemic. “So think of that community and do what you can to support them,” she said.

England said that due to the pandemic, this is “All Business Year,” and is not just focusing on the Saturday event.

“Our businesses are the reason that we exist, and they are our most important commodity. And when they are a member of the chamber, they are part of the chamber family,” she said. “We need to let our businesses know that we have been working diligently, because they are scrambling.”

Wilson said shopping small is a national program and that the SDECCOC promotes this all year long.

“We will continue to promote shop East County, shop local, shop small. But with COVID, promotion will be all on the internet, our social media and website,” he said. “We promote all businesses, large and small.”