In times of general panic such as the ones we’re living through, choosing what to buy for dinner or buying a nice new pair of shoes may be the last things on your mind. However, the main motivation behind social distancing measures is so that we can minimize the Coronavirus’ negative impact and all go back to our normal lives as soon as possible – something that would be hard to do if all of our favourite shops, cafés and restaurants closed as a result of the epidemic. Even if you’re currently self isolating, there are ways to help from the comfort of your home.
Most businesses thrive on human interaction. Whether you’re a coffee shop person or enjoy the occasional pint at your local pub, we all have our own favourite little spots that make our days and our lives just a tiny bit brighter. While most big restaurant chains and supermarkets will most likely be able to recover from this unexpected dip in sales, the same can’t be said of other local independent businesses, with most of them facing an uncertain future. While it is in everyone’s best interest to avoid public places at the moment, there are still steps we can take from a distance. Read on for our advice.
First of all: be responsible
While most pubs and public spaces have been closed in Ireland, some establishments are still open under strict conditions of social distancing between clients or as takeaways instead of sit-in restaurants. Before considering going out to support them in person, assess your own situation. Are you exhibiting any symptoms? Is there anyone at risk in your household? Would you be likely to encounter many people on your way to the business of your choice? Is there really no other way to support them from a distance? Don’t forget that every choice you make at the moment must be a conscious one for your own safety and other people’s health.
If you do decide to go out and support businesses in person, don’t forget to respect basic rules: avoid face to face communication whenever possible, favour online or card payment over cash, stay within a safe distance of employees and potential other customers and regularly wash your hands, both before and after interacting with unfamiliar people and places. These restrictions on movement and behaviour may seem frustrating when you’re only trying to support businesses that are dear to you, but remember that you wouldn’t be helping the staff in any way by making them sick.
Consider relocating your essential shopping
Despite all our efforts to stay at home as much as humanly possible, some level of outside movement is still necessary to fulfill our most basic needs. Outside of medical institutions, all stores equipped with food and essential everyday supplies will remain open for the foreseeable future.
Although information sources have been doing their best to remind us that shelves are being consistently restocked throughout every day and that popular fears of running out of supplies are largely baseless, the panic that took hold of customers both in Ireland and all around the world show how much the threat of a ban in grocery shopping appeals to our most basic survival instincts.
Instead of confronting empty shelves and fights over toilet paper rolls in your nearest supermarket, why not do some research and try to find if a smaller independent food store near you is still open to clients ? Not only would you avoid the stress of the crowd, but your chance of finding exactly what you want would be higher as these stores are naturally less frequented these days. And of course, any purchase you make will be a huge help to your local community !
Of course, take into consideration your own personal restrictions. No one’s expecting you to support your local butcher if you’ve been a vegetarian for ten years. Furthermore, since most of them do not rely on mass produced goods, products purchased in local businesses may be a bit more expensive than the ones found at your average superstore. If you’re struggling financially as a result of the pandemic or already were before, keep your own financial interests in mind first. However, if you are in a position to put in a bit more money in your grocery shopping these days, don’t let the few extra cents discourage you, and try to see this as an investment for the future of your local community.
Do something nice for yourself
These are hard times for everyone. Why not take a break in all the madness and get yourself a gift? Many independent stores now have online shops where you can order your favourite books, products, clothes, accessories… And pretty much anything you can think of, delivered straight to your house! If sanitary concerns are on your mind, rest assured that most online stores are now observing very strict health guidelines to make any transmission of the virus in delivery packages close to impossible. If you would like to ask more specific questions about your business of choice’s current packaging policies, contacting them through email, phone or social media is the best choice to get a quick and accurate answer. You can also ask about their new delivery options – for example, many businesses are now happy to do “contactless” deliveries, where packages are left on your doorstep for you to pick up once it is deemed safe. By ordering what you are fancying from them, you are helping them get through these uncertain times, and there is no doubt that they would be more than happy to answer any questions you might have.
Another option to support local businesses is to look into restaurants and cafés that now offer collection and delivery services. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of comfort food when you’re going through difficult times, especially when getting some would mean helping the people taking care of your favourite lunch spot or the cook that made your anniversary dinner! Many of these businesses are also offering discounts at the moment, so don’t hesitate to take advantage of those as well. Once again, if you have any doubts or queries about specific businesses, don’t hesitate to ask them directly through your preferred communication system.
Do something nice for others
Do you know elderly, sick or vulnerable people currently self isolating in your community? Why not make these times a little bit easier for them, and applying the above recommendations to them as well? Whether it is through offering to do their grocery shopping for them at a local store, getting them a nice gift to show your appreciation for them next time you will get to see each other face to face, or buying a gift voucher to go to a restaurant together once things calm down, a nice gesture in times when they may be particularly prone to loneliness will mean more to them than you can imagine. Or, for those of us who have missed out on Mother’s Day celebrations because of Coronavirus this year, how about a delayed gift for when you get to see your mother again?
And if you’d like to do something for those that are currently on the frontline of this crisis, keep an eye on offers that some businesses are putting out for medical staff. Let your nurse friend know about that café that offers free drinks to those with a medical ID, or even ask your local pizza takeaway if they could deliver something to the nearest homeless shelter. This is a time that is difficult for many, and generosity will not be unnoticed. If you’re in a position to do something good for your community now, it will thank you later.
And finally, keep talking
We are conscious that most of the above advice involves some level of financial input from you. If you are currently unable to put your wallet in the same place your heart is, don’t get down on yourself. The best thing you can do for your favourite Irish businesses is to keep them alive through your memories of them. Leave a nice comment on their Facebook page, review them on Google, post a photo of your last visit on Instagram, plan to take your best friend there once they reopen. Having the support of a community to back them up will always be helpful for businesses fighting to keep their place in the Irish scene.
Ireland would not be the same without its small businesses. We all have a memory of a special meet-up in an independent café that we remember fondly, or a secondhand clothing item found in a vintage shop that we keep preciously. These little things are what makes day to day life special, and we all have the power to do something to help. If you’re lacking in inspiration on where to go, consider checking Instagram hashtags like #shopsmallireland or #smallirishbusiness, or websites like All The Food, which regularly update the list of restaurants and takeaways that are still operating through these unusual circumstances. You could also ask your friends for recommendations – while you may not be able to see them in person, making a small gesture to help their favourite business keep afloat will show that you’re thinking of them.
Do you have a favourite small Irish independent business you would love to see more people supporting in the face of Coronavirus? Or are you perhaps the owner of one, and have more advice on how we can help the independent Irish scene without endangering anyone in the process? Let us know in the comments!