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Katherine McCabe / Gavel Media

The Fate of Small Businesses During COVID-19

The phrase “back to business” has certainly rung true for Boston College students this semester, but the same cannot be said for everyone. While the pandemic has changed lives in numerous ways, perhaps one of its most significant effects has been that which it has had on small businesses all across the country. Ask anyone, and almost every person can list a small business they know that has closed since the start of COVID-19. 

For many BC and other Boston area students, that business was Allium Market & Cafe. Back on Oct. 3, the Brookline lite fare restaurant and local favorite officially closed its doors. Unable to find a new owner for the business, owner Talia Glass officially decided it was time to take a break. Ms. Glass’ decision came at a difficult point. After keeping the restaurant afloat through the height of the pandemic, Ms. Glass struggled to juggle personal life along with the time-consuming job of being a full-time business owner. As Ms. Glass stated, “I’ve come to recognize a scary truth: I’ve been holding my breath and running a marathon for the past 16 months straight.” 

BC senior Lauren Blaser, MCAS ‘22, was a frequent Allium customer. Before the start of the pandemic, Lauren often met up with her friend from Northeastern at Allium, where her favorite items to purchase off the menu included scones and fancy cheeses. “I was enamored with Allium. It was so cool...Every community could use a place like Allium Market. They were the epitome of local businesses to support.” 

Allium is not alone. During the pandemic, the shutdown of businesses became a regular occurrence. In the first year alone, approximately 200,000 establishments all across the country were forced to close. Though predominantly due to the fact that their businesses are unable to withstand the financial strain, there are a wide variety of reasons why owners close their doors, citing safety concerns and personal life challenges that have developed due to the pandemic among other causes. 

However, the wider implications of small businesses shutting down represent more than just a loss of revenue. Oftentimes, local businesses are the lifeblood of communities. Small businesses, like corner shops and cafes, are social gathering spaces. In this way, such closures have illustrated the broader sense of a loss of community felt throughout the country thanks to the pandemic. 

The pandemic has prompted society to change established patterns of behavior that had long existed, like going out to eat. A recent survey found that 55% of people have been eating at home more frequently than usual as a result of the pandemic. Such observations cause concern for the future of the restaurant industry. Additionally, online shopping has risen dramatically since March of 2020, and research suggests that it’s on its way to becoming the most preferred form of shopping. 

Although pandemic regulations have become less restrictive, the struggle is not yet over for small businesses, many of which silently fight every day to stay open. Fortunately, there are many things we can do to help! For one, we can commit ourselves to shopping locally. Be sure to familiarize yourself with local businesses in the area, plenty of which can be found in directories online. Not only does spending money at these establishments support the owners, but it also supports the greater community as a whole. Furthermore, use your social media platforms to shout out local businesses and attract more attention to them. 

In a world where we have a dire climate problem, shopping locally also helps minimize our carbon footprint, because we are spending our money at more environmentally friendly establishments instead of giving it to large corporations with a history of pollution and harmful practices. So the next time you’re about to order off of Amazon or run out to your favorite fast-food restaurant, remember—local businesses are a better and more sustainable alternative. 

We have a responsibility to help our local businesses in times of need. Therefore, if we really want to preserve our communities and the local businesses that serve as the bedrock, then it’s time that we make a conscious effort to shop local. The future will thank us for it. 

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