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Here's how you can safely support small local businesses

"Small Business Saturday" is going virtual, providing a chance to support your favorite local store while social distancing.

WASHINGTON — It is hard to be a small business owner, and it is even tougher to stay operational during our current climate. This weekend, you have the chance to safely help out some of your favorite local stores.

Many of us have heard of "Small Business Saturday." This weekend, store owners bring the tradition online during a time when many local small business owners could really use some help. Storefronts ranging from coffee shops to beauty stores, art boutiques and clothing retailers are represented at the event. 

Mallory Shelter, the owner of Mallory Shelter Jewelry, came up with the idea to start a Virtual Small Business Saturday.

"I know I speak for myself and other business owners when I say, it is a very scary time to have a physical space," Shelter said. "Obviously, there are costs involved in that -- like rent, payroll. So we are all trying to navigate the best we can." 

With some stores shut down and small businesses facing unprecedented challenges, Shelter said this weekend brings a big opportunity.

"Small businesses are essential," she said. "They make a community and without them, a city or town will look very very different." 

More than 50 store owners are featured on the virtual page, DC Shop Small. The virtual event allows shoppers to connect with store owners, hear their stories and stay safe with no-contact payment and shipping options. Some stores are even offering in-demand incentives, like hand sanitizer, with every purchase. 

"That has really been such a silver lining in all of this, that people are really rallying around each other and it’s not about one individual person or business, but about a community," Shelter said.

A majority of the stores participating in the virtual event are offering customers who spend more than $100 a $10 gift certificate to another local store, so that the small business love can be passed on. 

RELATED: 'It's all about the pivot' How DC's restaurant industry is surviving a pandemic

Shelter said the coronavirus could change the way store owners do business long-term. 

"I think many people will have to re-open cautiously," Shelter said. "I think we’ve learned that you can sell things online, people have been doing it for longer than I have or many other businesses, but I think just getting creative with those online sales. And, I think now is a great opportunity to put your face behind your brand and really be candid about what it’s like to run a small business." 

Store owners are now hoping for support as they continue to push forward. 

"I know this is a tough time to ask people to shop, but again, I think it is imperative that small businesses stay alive, and I think anything you can do to support, even if it’s just a message saying we are behind you with this, it's very much appreciated," Shelter said.

The DC Shop Small website lists all the companies participating, with some stores donating a portion of their sales to a local nonprofit as a way to pay it forward. The Outrage, a clothing store on 14th Street, is donating a mask for every purchase made, to be distributed to D.C.'s homeless population. 

Get the details on participating in Virtual Small Business Saturday here. 

Credit: Nicole DiAntonio

Here are some additional links to specific cities and counties participating:

DC Small Business Saturday

Here's a list of small businesses around the DMV that are participating in a virtual “Small Business Saturday.” On April 25th, many of these businesses will offer special deals to thank customers for the continued support. Other stores will be donating a portion of their sales to a local non-profit as a way to pay it forward.

Shop In Place DC

Use this site to find your favorite local stores and help support DC’s hometown entrepreneurs. The website provides a list of stores that are still delivering the essentials. Local businesses can fill out the profiles to be added to the list if they are still open and operating.

Maryland

Maryland’s Best program launched an interactive map. The map shows the different farmers, farmers markets and seafood companies doing direct sales during the coronavirus crisis.

Alexandria, Virginia

From curbside pickup to ready-to-make dinners, here is a list of ways you can still enjoy your favorite Alexandria restaurant from the comfort of your own home.

Old Town Alexandria

Old Town Boutique District shows a list of all the businesses that remain open and the alternative ways to support the local shops.

Small businesses are the backbone of our country and will be deeply affected by this global event. They are on the front line of this crisis. We need our loyal customers and love local supporters to still try to support small businesses anyway that they can. Once this crisis passes, the reality faced by some small businesses might be to close because of this economic hardship. There are many ways to still support small businesses during this outbreak:

  • Purchase a gift card now to use at a later date (any dollar amount counts!)
  • Curbside pickup/drop-off services
  • Virtual community experiences/activations
  • Facetime/Instagram/Virtual shopping services
  • Ask/check in on your favorite boutique owner and ask how you can help or let them know you are thinking about them (its the little things that mean a lot)

Fairfax, Virginia

Here's a current list of all the closures and delivery options around Fairfax. You will also find coupons and special deals to some of your favorite local restaurants, breweries and wineries.

Herndon, Virginia

Many Herndon businesses remain open during this COVID-19 emergency, offering take-out and delivery options. Find the full list of stores and special shopping hours here.

Silver Spring, Maryland

Many essential businesses in Silver Spring remain open. You can find the full list of what is open and closed by clicking on the below link.

Prince George’s County, Maryland

In response of the COVID-19 crisis, several food pantries have been set up throughout the County and adjoining neighborhoods Find a full list of the food distribution locations across Prince George’s County.

Rosslyn, Virginia

The city assembled a list of restaurants that are still open. Rosslyn also launched a #RosslynRewards program where you can get a $10 reward for every $20 dollars you spend at participating restaurants. They best part is that the extra $20 dollars goes towards a gift card you can use to support the local restaurant in the future.

RELATED: Maryland barbers & stylists can reopen, partially. Not all are sure they want to

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