Buy gift cards
Purchasing a gift card to your favorite shop, theater or restaurant is an immediate way to put cash into the business, said Amanda Ballantyne, national director of The Main Street Alliance.
That's exactly what Luz Urrutia, CEO of the Opportunity Fund, a nonprofit microlender, has done. "I just bought gift cards to every one of the [local] restaurants that I love. They get their cash today. And I'll be able to use it later."
Shop local -- online and off
Molly Moon runs several ice cream shops in Seattle, which already has been hard hit by coronavirus. Moon, who employs 120 people, said she's now considering "extremely reduced hours ... It's breaking my heart."
For healthy customers running errands, she encourages them in good humor to "stock up on pints for the hard times." For those who stay home, Moon invites them to buy gift cards and store merchandise on her company web site.
When it comes to shopping locally, health guidance from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control "is literally disrupting business as usual," said Abigail Ellman, a director at the Cooper Square Committee, a nonprofit working to prevent the displacement of residents and small businesses on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Right now, Ellman noted, businesses are worried about how to make rent and payroll. Customers alone can't cure that strain, but she said "they need you to shop there. Support your local pharmacies and restaurants and businesses."
Take advantage of discounts
Taproom No. 307, a craft beer restaurant in New York City, is usually packed on Friday nights, and is really busy around St. Patrick's Day.
As of this week, the place has been practically empty. "People are afraid," said co-owner Roberta Souza.
It doesn't help that the restaurant is a place patrons come to watch live sports and most have now been canceled.
To entice customers who would rather stay home, Souza is offering a 20% discount on takeout.
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