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COVID-19: Shopping Small is Good for the Local Economy – and Maybe Your Health, Too

At Weelunk, we’re all about keeping you connected to your community. Because that looks a little different right now, we’re bringing you ways to engage while staying safe and healthy. We hope Weelunk can continue to connect you to Wheeling — no matter where you are.

Right now, we’re all dealing with some big changes. The world is facing a big problem. So why now, more than ever, is it important to think… small?

In Wheeling, there are hundreds of small businesses that play an integral part of the city’s economy. With normal business operations ground to a halt, most of us will start to see some of the negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Economic Impact of COVID-19 for Small Businesses

In the short term, business owners and their employees will have little to no income, and, sadly, some businesses may not survive this crisis without intervention. In the long term, the city will see a reduction in B&O tax proceeds, which are based on a business’s revenue. That means fewer resources for everyone as the year progresses.

The one certainty through all of this is that we will all need essential supplies to ride out the “stay-at-home” order, and when we have to shop, we have a chance to make a positive impact by supporting small businesses.

Shopping Small Could Be the Safer Option

Dominick Cerrone, owner of Good Mansion Wines, says there is much to consider for shoppers as they choose where to purchase supplies.

“There have been repeated warnings by political representatives and health experts that social distancing means avoiding large, big-box retail supermarkets if you can,” Cerrone said.

Smaller businesses have fewer employees and see less foot traffic than larger stores. By shopping small, we can limit our contact with others and minimize potential exposure to illness. Additionally, shopping at small businesses now helps ensure we have more shopping options later.

While many small businesses are shuttering, some big-box stores are hiring thousands, Cerrone continued. By shopping at locally owned stores, we can help them weather the storm.

Wheeling’s Small Businesses are Adapting

Cerrone has adapted his business to remain open and offer his customers a responsible shopping experience. While the dining room is currently closed, the shop remains open seven days a week for sales of wine, imported cheeses and meats, fresh and dried pasta and takeout food orders from the sandwich shop and bakery.

The store continues to offer its weekly Supper Club meal kits. Members of the of the Supper Club stop at GMW on Wednesdays or Thursdays to pick up the kit containing all the ingredients necessary to make a gourmet meal.

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Fans of GMW’s Friday wine tastings can still enjoy a weekly selection with “Tastings to Go.” Each tasting kit will come with samples of each wine, a fact sheet with info on all the wines and an an assortment of breads, cheeses and Italian meats.

For customers who prefer not to venture into the store, GMW is offering curbside service and they’re also rolling out a delivery service.

Downtown’s Public Market is also offering curbside service. The market has posted several pictures on its Facebook page so customers can browse available products. Customers can call in the order and pick it up curbside in as little as 30 minutes. The Public Market stocks a variety of local meats and produce, as well as many local and natural products that can’t be found anywhere else in the area.

The market is also serving takeout breakfast and lunch daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Grab-and-go options are also available Monday through Saturday.

Local stores are also making some other operational changes to encourage shoppers to practice responsible social distancing. Miklas Meat Market has implemented new business hours, opening later each day to allow for sanitizing and restocking the store. For shoppers coming into the store, management has posted a few requests to help keep everyone safe.

Jebbia’s Market is ensuring customers that their shelves are stocked. The store is maintaining regular store hours, but they’ve also added a curbside pickup service. Customers can call in and place their order, and Jebbia’s will call the customer when the order is ready to be picked up.

In a time where there is so much uncertainty, it is encouraging to see Wheeling’s small business owners doing all they can to remain a constant for their customers.

• Wheeling native Jennifer Materkoski is a graduate of West Liberty University and Kent State University, where she earned a master’s degree in journalism and mass communications. Before beginning her current role as director of communications and employee engagement for a global business process outsourcing firm, Jennifer worked in local media and non-profit communications. She is a current board member of Generation Wheeling, also chairing the organization’s Work Committee. She lives in Wheeling with her husband, Rich, and her three children: Mason, Mercer and Miller.