While coronavirus has tremendously impacted every aspect of the economy and daily life, it has hit small businesses especially hard. Businesses are struggling across the country as people are stuck at home.

As ecommerce sales have skyrocketed, small shops and downtowns have seen record low foot traffic, causing sales to be minimal and the future to be something not yet known. But as holiday time approaches, the coming weeks will prove to be crucial for Downtown Westfield retailers.

Businesses are relying on this holiday season to get them through this incredibly difficult time, and it is up to the community to pull through and support the stores that are the heart of Westfield. Our local businesses have done so much, so now it’s time to return the favor and help Downtown Westfield retailers stay a vibrant part of the community.

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One of the last independent bookstores in Union County, the Town Book Store has been around since 1934 and had its fair share of ups and downs. Coronavirus has posed a large challenge for The Town Book Store. The store’s owner, Anne Laird, emphasized how crucial these next few weeks will be.

“Ordinarily, we depend very heavily on the sales we make during the holiday season to get us through the rest of the year,” Laird said. “In a year like this, however, your support through these next few months will be even more critical for us than usual.”

While shoppers are definitely hesitant to go inside stores due to rising cases, Laird assures that the bookstore makes sure picking out gifts is completely safe. Shoppers can opt to go inside or can choose to do curbside pickup instead. The Town Book Store offers stocking stuffers, toys and books for all ages, Laird said, and they also can order whatever a customer wants, with no shipping charges.

In addition, the rise of e-commerce has been detrimental for businesses, so coupled with the pandemic, it makes survival even harder. Ordering a package on Amazon may be easier, but it cannot compensate for the level of customer service and care that one can receive from a small business.

Marty Silverman, manager of Savory Spice Shop in Westfield, emphasized the importance of shopping local.

“Shopping locally gives a level of personal service you can't get online,” Silverman said. “Our staff members love sharing their experience and knowledge.”

It is the level of detail and care that makes local retailers unique. Owners are truly passionate about their products and can provide customers with genuine suggestions and advice, more so than any online review can.

“When you need to count on someone, you usually choose family,” said Ahrre Maros, of Ahrre’s Coffee Roastery. “In that same way, when you need to count on quality customer service, your relationships with local merchants will ensure the best satisfaction. So, shop local this holiday season. Your local merchants are your extended family.”

Ahrre’s Coffee Roastery is celebrating its 30th anniversary and hopes to see many more years in Downtown Westfield.

To ensure that shops like Ahrre’s Coffee Roastery can have a future, the Downtown Westfield corporation has unveiled a variety of initiatives to give businesses the support they need to survive the pandemic.

Recently, the DWC received a grant of $72,530 that will go towards making this holiday season as successful as it can be for the town. The grant will give businesses the ability to offer free delivery and curbside pickup, making shopping local more convenient. The town is being decorated for the holidays too, as a means to draw in customers and brighten people’s days.

“What would Westfield be without its downtown: it is its backbone,” said Miriam Verga of Mimi and Hill. “Neighbors helping neighbors ― friends helping friends, and it’s time to show up for each other.”

It’s time to step up and help the businesses this holiday season, for the good of the community, local economy and Westfield as a whole. A local purchase is not just commerce during this time, it represents commitment and dedication to a vibrant future of Downtown Westfield. Every dollar counts, every visit to a shop is one step closer to getting Westfield through the pandemic.

Recognize the fragility of this situation and shop local.

Jordyn Ives is a student at Westfield High School.

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