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story.lead_photo.caption Signs with Tolson Pharmacy's contact information are plastered all over the front of the store Tuesday in downtown Jefferson City. The inside of the pharmacy is closed, but it will still fill and deliver prescriptions to your car or home. Photo by Liv Paggiarino / News Tribune.
For more news about the COVID-19 coronavirus, access the News Tribune Health section.

Small businesses are the backbone of the local economy, which is why it's crucial people shop at community retailers and restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently launched a statewide awareness campaign to encourage consumers to support local businesses.

"Unfortunately, they work on very narrow margins, so an event like this could very easily put a small business out of business," said Karen Buschmann, Missouri Chamber vice president of marketing and communications. "So it doesn't just impact the business owner but the people they employ as well. Now more than ever, it is really important to support them in their time of when they need it most."

1. Buy gift cards.

While several events are being canceled, there are still large milestones happening, like birthdays or wedding celebrations. Purchasing gift cards gives businesses instant financial help, and the cards can go toward future purchases.

"At the end of the day, when everything starts opening back up, people are going to want to make up for the event they missed or something, so gift cards are always a good solution," Initially Yours co-owner Matt Sandbothe said. "Birthdays aren't going away and babies are still being born, and we still want to be able to provide a gift for people who want that type of thing."

2. Shop online or through visual tours.

Because of COVID-19, retailers are having to find inventive ways to engage with customers, while also keeping the buyers and their staff safe. This includes using FaceTime to show customers merchandise, posting products on social media and offering curbside services.

"We're finding that local businesses are implementing some really creative ways to keep business going, so check out their social media pages and websites and see what they've come up with as ways to keep their businesses going strong," Buschmann said.

3. Order delivery or curbside pickup.

After the Cole County Health Department prohibited large gatherings of more than 10 people, many local restaurants and coffee shops now offer online ordering, take-out, delivery and curbside pickup.

"We just wanted to try to do whatever we could to keep the doors open but to ultimately be safe," said Quinten Rice, owner of JQ's on High, which offers carry-out to customers. "It's a tough middle ground, but I felt like it was the best thing to do at this time."

4. Be generous with tips.

Since restaurants and coffee shops are scrambling to provide extra services, being generous with tips will help provide instant financial help to businesses, Buschmann said.

"You've got to remember those workers at this time," she said. "We know it's extremely important that we keep up our social distancing efforts, so we came up with some ways people could support small businesses while still staying safe."

5. Spread the word on social media.

The power of social media is strong, and a positive review or post can go a long way for a business.

"Sometimes you don't have to monetarily help. Sometimes it's just going out there and sharing a post or making a comment so that people are aware," Unique Creations owner Lisa Kindle said.

6. Reschedule appointments or deliveries.

Instead of canceling appointments or deliveries, reschedule them. This ensures local businesses can continue to provide services to the community.

Jill Bednar, owner of Southbank Gift Company, recently rescheduled deliveries of some merchandise her shop was supposed to receive later this spring.

"When I was making those phone calls that I was canceling an order, a lot of the vendors were very willing to push it off or reschedule and told me to call when I'm ready," she said. "We're all in the same boat, so we just have to work together and get through this."

7. Donate to businesses.

Businesses will need monetary help to get through this trying time. The bills won't go away while people fight the spread of COVID-19.

The Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau partnered with Capitol City CORK and Provisions to launch #LOVEJC, a campaign to raise money for local businesses impacted by COVID-19. People can purchase T-shirts from the CVB website for $20, with $15 going toward a Cole County business of their choice.

"It's an unprecedented time and important to support our local businesses as much as we can," said Brittney Mormann, CVB communications and film manager. "This is their livelihood, and business owners continue to come up with alternative ways for the community to encourage responsible health practices while enjoying delicious meals or shopping for a loved one's birthday gift. They recognize that while we need to stay safe during this time, we can't put everything on hold."

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