Anytime a business has to change its operations, or limit its sales, tough situations can ensue. The Ann Arbor area is full of unique, locally-rooted, beloved small businesses that span many industries – and we know the whole community wants to support them as much as possible right now as we're experiencing changes as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Here are 10 ways you can help to keep your favorite small businesses afloat during this difficult time.
1. Gift cards
This is probably one of the most effective ways that you can show support for small businesses during this tough time. You know you’re going to be back for the award-winning mac & cheese at Zingerman’s Roadhouse, and you’re going to go back to shop at the magical Mudpuddles, so grab a gift card now! Some places are even offering bonus deals on gift cards – like The Black Pearl, which will add $25 to any $200 gift card purchased (and you can’t beat their fish tacos!).
2. Curbside Pickup
You don’t have to go without your favorite dishes. Seriously! More eateries than ever are offering curbside pickup. So when you’re craving a Treetown Tempeh Reuben from Detroit Street Filling Station (they’re doing amazing things for the community), those mahi-mahi fish tacos from Sava's or one of Salt Springs Brewery’s epic burgers, just give them a call and swing by. You don’t even have to get out of the car!
Don’t even want to leave your house? Totally cool. Tons of local restaurants are offering delivery, some for the first time ever. Blue LLama Jazz Club is an underrated foodie hub now offering delivery, with jazz-inspired dishes like Yucca Gnocchi, Red Beans & Ricely Cakes, and Ham & Cheese Pie. Palio is also delivering its authentic Tuscan dishes that we’ve loved for almost 30 years.
4. Tip well
When you support restaurants by ordering takeout or delivery, you’re helping to keep servers, bartenders, and delivery people employed. Many of these hospitality workers rely on tips for the majority of their income, so please tip them generously if you’re able. Typically, you might tip just 10-15% on a delivery or pickup order, but we’ve seen so much generosity toward our service staff since this crisis began, and folks have been tipping 20-30% or more on these orders. It makes an incredible difference to these workers who depend upon tips to pay their bills.
5. Online shopping for everyday things
Out of lip balm? Want some freshly-cut flowers? Consider giving small, local businesses a call instead of ordering from an online giant or heading to a big box store. Lots of small grocers and pharmacies could really use a boost right now, and you’re sure to get great service with a smile. We especially love Argus Farm Stop, which sells locally-grown flowers and potted plants, and Saline Pharmacy, where there are lots of options for shampoo, lip balm, and soap.
6. Pre-paying tips and online tip jars
Do you always see the same esthetician for facials or waxing and leave a tip on the services? Always drop a couple bucks in the tip jar at your favorite coffee shop? Since these businesses have temporarily closed their physical locations and you’re unable to visit them in person, consider pre-paying those tips to the folks you normally see. Several small businesses (like Cross Street Coffee and The Last Word) have set up online tip jars if you’d like to pre-pay tips for the future or throw in a few extra bucks to help out the employees – you can also ask for Venmo accounts.
7. Leave reviews
We could go on and on about our favorite Ann Arbor area shops and restaurants. You won’t find a more flavorful seafood chowder than from Monahan’s in Kerrytown, or more passionate staff than at Black Stone Bookstore, or a tastier mead than from Bløm Meadworks. Consider taking a moment to leave a genuine review for one or two of your favorite small businesses in the Ann Arbor area. There are lots of ways – Facebook, TripAdvisor, Google... pick your favorite, or leave one on each!
8. Follow, comment, like, share
Impactful and totally free, you can engage with your favorite businesses on social media to give them a virtual boost in the magical algorithms of Facebook, Instagram, and the like. Share their posts, comment on their updates, and stay connected. It means a lot! Note: You can always count on Miss Kim for some fun gifs and colorful content, and we love the gorgeous photos posted by the Ann Arbor Distilling Company.
9. Buy local groceries
If you love to cook or bake, consider buying your ingredients from a small, locally-owned grocer instead of a regional or national chain. Arbor Farms Market is stocked with veggies from local farmers, and Sparrow Meats is your go-to spot for everything from free-range poultry to organic lamb. Don’t forget Zingerman’s Deli for specialty items like imported pasta, handmade cheese, and the best tinned fish you’ll find anywhere (they’re also delivering right now!).
10. Buy a T-shirt
Not just any t-shirt! Underground Printing, which is deeply rooted in the Ann Arbor community, is pitching in to help local restaurants and businesses affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The super trendy shirts they’ve designed encourage us to “Flatten the Curve”, and come in two colors. Check with your favorite restaurant to see if they have a unique URL code that sends the majority of the proceeds straight to them, or purchase one HERE to support all participating businesses equally.
No matter how you choose to support small businesses this spring and beyond, be sure to follow the requirements and recommendations of local and state health officials, the CDC, and your health care provider.
Check out additional resources related to COVID-19 HERE.
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