Columnist Gabrielle Gould: In reopening, town’s resilient businesses turn to you

  • A view of Main Street in downtown Amherst on Saturday afternoon, March 14, 2020. gazette file photo

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

As you read this, we will have been in “phase two of phase two” for a little under a week.

P2.2 brings with it the return of indoor dining, nail salons, personal training sessions, massages and spas, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and the return to in-person, in-store retail shopping.

Businesses across Massachusetts are responding in different ways. Some have a “opening it all up, do we really need all these punitive guidelines” belief, while others are more reserved. They have a “we will remain curbside retail for a while longer” and “we will continue to work on our outdoor dining, we are not ready to have customers inside” response.

I understand and respect both positions. The economic impact for small, individual businesses over the past three months and into the immediate future remains devastating. Like many of us living through these times, our business owners have “ups and downs” about where we are today in this reopening. In Amherst, some days seem incredibly optimistic and others there is a slump (dive?) into the rabbit hole of the “what ifs.”

What amazes me is the continued resiliency of our business community: the down days happen, but within a few moments (or a day) of this “cannot work,” the owner/manager and team are back at it with renewed creativity and passion to bring their individual gifts back to the community.

Over the past two months, the town of Amherst has made swift and hugely beneficial decisions and changes to support our business community. You would be hard pressed to miss the new additions in our downtown of the outdoor dining “street side” that is being created. (Disclaimer: the bright yellow was all the Business Improvement District and part of a greater “Welcome Back” campaign that we are launching throughout Amherst!)

I would like to thank the numerous town officials for working with us and for taking action. You have truly shown your commitment to our business community. The BID, the Chamber, the businesses and I am certain the majority of our community is grateful.

To those who are ready to venture out to support our small businesses, I want to assure you that they are taking your health and safety, as well as their own and their staffs, fully to heart. You will see a happy yellow poster in the windows of our businesses welcoming you back displaying a trio of images: wash your hands, wear a mask, retain a 6 feet of distance.

We bring this to you because we want you to know that every safety precaution that the World Health Organization has advised is now how we do business. We share this with you because today we need your support. These businesses are fighting for their existence and we hope that when you are ready, you can and will support them.

If you are not ready to come out yet, please remember that purchasing gift cards helps a lot and we continue to raise funds at www.downtownamherstfoundation.org for our Relief and Resiliency Microgrant Program for small Amherst business support!

Here are a few more tips for our new normal: 

1. Please enter all establishments with your mask on, your hands washed and remain a distance when possible of 6'.  When dining you will remove your mask to eat, but please consider putting it back on when speaking to your server.

2. Please do not "run" your server, hairdresser, or shopkeep unnecessarily – try to ask for everything you might need all at once so they are not jogging all over the place. 

3. The employees and owners of these establishments are wearing masks to protect our safety. Please do not comment or tease them about it, they are as uncomfortable as we are in them and working hard while we enjoy their product. 

4. Please do not linger. Stores can only hold a certain capacity and there may be people waiting to get in and shop. Salons and barbers need time in between each client to clean, disinfect and prepare for the next person. They are on a timeline to provide the best for every customer they have.  Restaurants are having to restrict capacity, so when making a reservation, please advise how long you would like a table. This will make it easier to book the next customer. If not, then please after your meal depart. 

5. Do not come out if you are not feeling well – period.

6. Remember that everyone is doing their best and finally, if and when you can, tip big. This is the time, the place, the opportunity to do a little extra for those who have been out of work for a while and who, again, are all working at less than their shop, salon, barber or dining establishments' ideal capacity! 

Gabrielle Gould is the executive director of the Amherst Business Improvement District. She writes a monthly column for the Bulletin.