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Support Small Businesses During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Steph Litman of Hangover BBQ displays two orders of the half rack special with a choice of side.

WHEELING — Even during the coronavirus outbreak that has many people staying at home to avoid spreading the disease, there are many ways to support local businesses.

Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce President Erikka Storch said that one way for locals to support their small business community afloat even when their doors are shuttered is to purchase gift cards, if available. By providing that revenue stream, customers can help alleviate financial pressure while still getting their money’s worth once the heat is off.

“Call the restaurant or shop and see if you can buy a gift certificate from them, particularly if you buy directly from the entity, that’s beneficial and helpful to them, and it ensures that you’ll be visiting them once their doors are open and you can get what services they provide,” Storch said.

Storch also advocated supporting businesses through word-of-mouth and by posting positive reviews of small businesses online, to boost their visibility once the stay-at-home order is lifted. Additionally, she encourages customers to send encouraging notes to business owners.

Storch also recommended business owners participate in the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which offers low-interest loans to business owners affected by disasters. Online trainings on the program are offered through the SBA West Virginia District Office’s website at sba.gov/offices/district/wv/clarksburg/resources/west-virginia-small-business-training-opportunities.

Additionally, the West Virginia Tourism Office recently held a food preparation program to employ local restaurants in preparing food for those in need. While the demands of the program were filled as of Wednesday, businesses may sign up for future projects at wvtourism.com/foodprep.

Scott Reager, Executive Director for the Marshall County Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber works during the crisis to inform the public on what businesses are still providing which services, and also keeps those businesses informed with information and resources available from the government.

“We know this current situation will put a real strain on business and services, but if we all do our part, we can make the best out of this situation and hopefully get a healthy community,” Reager said.

Jill Stephen, director of the Barnesville Area Chamber of Commerce, said she and other community leaders are encouraging people to patronize all of the village businesses that remain open during the COVID-19 crisis, but they especially want residents to support businesses with local roots.

“We definitely want everyone to please still support those local businesses,” she said.

Stephen pointed out that the village has two hardware stores and a variety of small restaurants that remain in operation. Grocery stores in the community are still serving customers, as are local accounting firms and health care services, including WVU Medicine Barnesville Hospital and Ohio Hills Health Services.

Stephen said area residents can visit the Facebook page “Barnesville Area Takeout & Delivery” to see restaurants’ hours, menus and daily specials. In addition the chamber’s Facebook page is being updated frequently with announcements about what is open and what is closed, and the Belmont County Tourism Council has a “COVID-19 Resources” tab that includes area restaurant information on its website at visitbelmontcounty.com.

After listing some popular Barnesville restaurants, including pizza and ice cream shops, home-style eateries and food trucks, Stephen added, “Please support them so they continue to grow.”

She also noted the Elks Club, which is a private organization, will open up its Friday and Saturday night meal service to the public this week. There is a cost.

But those who are in need had the chance to eat for Free Thursday evening, as 300 meals were given away in the parking lot of Chestnut Lanes. According to the bowling alley’s Facebook page, a donation from Wyatt Shreve made it possible for the business to provide sloppy joe sandwiches and chips to anyone in need. The Barnesville Mother’s Club donated drinks for the effort, and Melissa Carpenter donated desserts. Anne Carpenter, Brent and Hannah Betts donated the meat.

A canopy was set up in the parking lot for drive-thru service.

Chestnut Lanes is open daily, but no bowling is going on. Instead, the alley is providing carryout food service for the public from its normal menu. Daily hours are being listed on the business’ Facebook page.


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