Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Burg Blog: We Must Help

Mangia Qui/Rubicon will be closed to patrons, but the owners are encouraging takeout and delivery orders.

This morning, at TheBurg, we had a meeting.

Over the past few days, it’s become clear that economic and social life is fast shutting down in the Harrisburg area due to the coronavirus contagion.

So, what does this mean for us? How will this impact our business? What changes should we make? And, mostly, how will we manage through this crisis?

I know that many other small businesses have had similar difficult meetings in the past day or two. For some, work will go on almost normally, though people may be forced to work from home or may need to balance their work and home lives more delicately, especially those with children.

For other people, especially owners of small, public-facing businesses, the meetings have been even more tense and the decisions harder.

Do you stay open or do you close? And, if you close, how will you survive until you can open once more to customers.

Arguably, the greatest impact is on restaurants, shops and any place that is event-oriented.

People are responding in a multitude of ways.

This morning, Sara Bozich announced the cancellation of Harrisburg Beer Week, which was slated for late April. Also, the Millworks announced that it was closing until further notice. Midtown Cinema is closed, as are most arts venues.

Some places are making major adjustments, but trying to remain in operation.

So, as of this morning, Little Amps was doing only takeout from its State Street location. Elementary Coffee Co. shut down its North Street shop, but will happily deliver coffee beans right to you. Yellow Bird Cafe is encouraging takeout orders, as well.

Mangia Qui/Rubicon made the tough decision to close down their restaurants to patrons, but will offer curbside pickup and delivery. Would you like chef Qui Qui Musarra to cook for you specially? My answer is an emphatic yes.

Revolutionary War-era philosopher and author Thomas Paine once wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

No, this isn’t war, but it is a severe health emergency, now compounded by an economic crisis.

We’ve already been told how we can help mitigate the health component: social distancing, working from home. And now it’s up to us, as a community, to ensure that our small businesses survive this unfolding economic catastrophe. After all, not only do these businesses serve us everyday—and sometimes on a shoestring—but unlike larger corporations and chain stores, the owners often live right here. They’re our neighbors, too.

When this epidemic finally passes, we’ll need these talented, motivated people and their wonderful products to still be here with us, in our community.

So, please redouble your commitment to patronizing these businesses. If you don’t feel comfortable going in person—or can’t—you still can help by:

  • Ordering in. Many businesses are doing delivery themselves or through a delivery service.
  • Picking up. In the Harrisburg area, many businesses will deliver right to your idling car.
  • Taking out gift cards. Spend now, buy later. You know you’ll eventually purchase Urban Churn’s incredible ice cream or the Millworks’ farm-to-table fare. So, front-load it, helping the cash flow of your favorite businesses in the process.
  • Some businesses will take direct contributions. These especially applies to arts groups like Gamut Theatre Co., Open Stage, Susquehanna Art Museum and Theatre Harrisburg, among others.

There are probably a hundred other ways to help. Go to your favorite businesses’ websites or social media pages or call them to find out what you can do to help ensure their survival.

Harrisburg, we are all in this together. We have to weather this crisis and come out the other end in good enough shape to rebuild. We can only accomplish this by each one of us asking, “What can I do? How can I help?”

Lawrance Binda is co-publisher/editor-in-chief of TheBurg.

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