Creative Ways to Support Small Businesses

Local business often make up the heart of Atlanta neighborhoods, giving customers individualized attention and unique products. Delivery, curbside pick-up, Face Time orders and virtual classes are a few of the ways these small businesses are getting creative during this unprecedented time of social distancing. Here are some ways you can support the small businesses you love.

Buy from the Moms and Pops.

“The big box stores will make it through this,” says Cindy O’Hara, who owns Learning Express toy stores in Alpharetta and East Cobb with her husband Malcolm. “It’s the Mom and Pops who are going to have a hard time.” If you need something, think twice before you do a one-click with Amazon. Give your business to a small store that you would visit during more normal times.

Order merchandise online if the local store gets the sale.

If your favorite local business temporarily closed, or you’re staying home, buy online. However, if the local store is part of a bigger chain, make sure the local proprietor gets the sale. O’Hara says while she and her husband own their local shops, any purchases made online will go to the franchise. Instead, find another way to purchase items, such as curbside pick-up.

Order carry out or curbside pick-up.

Many restaurants are open for take-out or delivery. Other stores in the metro area quickly switched to curbside pick-up.

Kim Bach, who owns Treehouse Kid and Craft with her sister, Kristen Bach, says she was not expecting the sudden change in business due to social distancing. Although she has closed her storefront temporarily, she is offering curbside pick-up Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. The O’Haras also closed their doors on Friday and switched to offering curbside pick-up Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Take advantage of delivery.

Some stores in the area are taking orders and payment over the phone, and then delivering to your doorstep. This stops face-to-face contact, but still allows customers to shop and small businesses to sale their wares. Joe and Whitney Novak, owners of Kazoo Toys started their “Kazoo to You” subscription service in response to limiting their store hours. Customers go online, fill out a survey, and they will receive a toy delivery once or twice week for a surcharge of $1 per toy. The Novaks deliver the orders to the customer’s door and leave them, but even with the social distancing, they see excited kids’ faces. “It’s kind of like being Santa Claus,” Joe Novak says.

Purchase gift cards or gift certificates online or at the curbside pick-up.

Purchasing gift cards is an easy way to support a small business. At Treehouse Kid and Craft, customers can call the store to order a card and have it sent directly to their email so they don’t have to come in to the store. At Learning Express, O’Hara says a customer showed her support by buying a gift card to use later when she was picking up a curbside order.

Check out merchandise using social media and electronic formats.

Learning Express customers can call or email and set up a time to FaceTime with a store employee. After asking questions, the employee shows the customer items in the store that fit their need. Then the item is paid for and the customer can pick it up during curbside hours.

Reach out and request.

Bach says she is encouraging her customers to reach out to her and ask for what they need. “We are getting really creative,” Bach says. If she can fulfill the request for a customer, she’ll do it. For example, she has delivered some orders right to her customers’ doors.

Take a virtual class.

Rob Sayer, Founder and Director of The Music Class, which has several studios in Metro Atlanta and around the world, says he anticipated what was coming because clients in their studios in China were stuck at home in the middle of January. He created virtual classes, and decided to be ready here with the same thing.

“I’ve been getting my teachers trained on Zoom, and I converted my home office so it would be ready for videotaping. My goal was that the day that classes were cancelled, we could send out an email to say we were having virtual classes. The vast majority of families have been receptive.” Sayer also has virtual “Pay what you can events,” which allow families to donate any amount and log in to a virtual class.

Most small business were blindsided by the changes that are occurring with their businesses due to social distancing. Support them now so they can continue to thrive once life goes back to normal.

“We had a dream and a vision and all of a sudden this threw a wrench into it,” Bach says. “We’ve put our blood, sweat and tears into our businesses.”

– Janeen Lewis

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