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How you can help struggling businesses get through the coronavirus
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How you can help struggling businesses get through the coronavirus

We all know the feeling. You’re home, watching an unavoidable parade of bad news gush its way out of every television, computer screen, smartphone and tablet within a 5-foot radius. You go on social media, hoping to distract yourself with a funny post from a friend, but all you see is more of the same — links to frightening articles and sad stories about local business owners struggling to keep their heads above water in what has become our strange new reality.

You want to do something, but you feel helpless.

Though it’s perfectly natural to feel this way during a time as stressful and confusing as this, there are some ways you can help ease the burden and lend a hand, even while hunkered down in your own home.

Buy some swag

With many workers laid off and businesses struggling, some folks are figuring out new and creative ways to keep a bit of cash coming to those who need it in these trying times.

Atlantic City’s Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall has come up with a great way for folks to help out their employees who have been laid off. The popular gastropub has teamed up with local artist Mike Bell to produce a special one-of-a-kind t-shirt. The shirt features Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall’s mascot strolling along the popular Orange loop block and was designed and donated by Bell, whose artwork can be found throughout the Beer Hall itself. Proceeds from the $20 t-shirt purchases will go directly to employees of Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall, MADE AC Chocolate, Rhythm & Spirits and The Iron Room.

“The team on Tennessee Avenue is such a close and interchangeable group that we are truly an extension of each other’s own family,” says Brian Chambers, a manager at Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall and the man behind the t-shirt idea.

“I was trying to figure out a way to get just a little cash in people’s pockets. The t-shirt idea came right away. Why not create a shirt to commemorate this super strange time in history? And why not feature a local artist who already has such great ties to Atlantic City and Tennessee Avenue? Mike (Bell) has original art for sale inside Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall, so it makes sense that he would be willing to help us. Hopefully with the shirt sales along with the community ordering takeout, we can all get through this.”

Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall has also set up a page to donate directly to their employees if you don’t want a T-shirt.

To purchase a shirt, go to Widerawake.com/keepinlocalopenstore/tennessee-avenue. To donate directly, go to TennesseeAvenueBeerHall.com.

Josie Kelly’s Public House in Somers Point is currently selling official Josie Kelly’s magnets on their website. Each magnet costs $10, $9 of which goes directly to their employees. Magnets, gift cards and more can be ordered at ToastTab.com/josiekellys.

Pleasantville’s own Lucky Dog Custom Apparel has put together a promotion called LocalTees, which features a wide variety of t-shirts from some of your favorite South Jersey businesses. Spots like Bellino’s Market, Bocca Coal Fired Bistro, 7 Mile Brewery, Gilchrist Restaurant, The Humane Society of Ocean City and many more all have shirts available for $20, with $10 of each shirt going directly to the local business. Shirts can be purchased at LuckyDogCustomApparel.com.

Grab a gift card

Many stores and small businesses were either forced to close due to orders from the government, or chose to do so due to safety or revenue issues. Unfortunately, the owners of these businesses still have to pay for things like rent and other monthly bills as they pile up. Purchasing a gift card online for your favorite store is a great way to put cash in the hands of business owners right now when they need it most, while giving yourself a good reason to return to their business as soon as they reopen.

Take the credit

If you are like most people, you probably had a few exciting nights planned before the coronavirus came along and canceled life. Maybe you bought tickets to a show at one of the many small theaters in South Jersey and are now looking for a refund. Our advice: If you can afford not to, don’t take it.

Many events are being rescheduled for future dates, and with the current shutdown, venues have no income at the moment. If they are forced to hand out refunds for every ticket sold, chances are there may not be a theater to return to when this is all over. A better plan of attack is to accept a credit or simply hang on to those tickets you bought. The show will be all the more enjoyable when it does finally take place, and you can say you were part of what made it happen.

And if your exact show isn’t rescheduled, maybe you can use a credit for your ticket for a different performer or show.

Keep restaurants afloat

No, you can’t head on over to your favorite restaurant for a relaxing sit-down meal, and no, you can’t unwind and let someone else handle doing the dishes. It sucks. We know.

But what you can do is order takeout or delivery. Many of your favorite eateries have suddenly been forced to adapt to an all take-out and/or delivery model. While not easy or ideal, this alone is keeping a lot of South Jersey’s most beloved restaurants afloat during the crisis. For a list of great spots to order from, check out our menu guide in this week’s edition of A.C. Weekly.

You can also go on your favorite delivery app such as Uber Eats and DoorDash to get delivery to your home; many of the places have even waived their delivery fee.

And for another great list, check out Atlantic County Takeout and Delivery Options on Facebook, which was started by the Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce.

Pretend it’s the most wonderful time of the year

Every year a large portion of the country suddenly freaks out about week before Christmas, as they realize that they have a ton of people to shop for and very little time to do it. While you are home with LOTS of time on your hands, you might as well get a jump start on your holiday shopping. It may seem a bit early for it, but think of how great you’ll feel when you don’t have to fight the crowds at the big box stores come December.

But the best reason to shop like it’s Black Friday is because much like gift cards, it puts cash in the hands right now of businesses who desperately need it. Even if it’s a few small items, it can make a difference. So head to the website of your favorite local business, order up a few stocking stuffers and pat yourself on the back for being VERY much ahead of the game.

Up those tips

With everyone locked down inside ordering everything from groceries to takeout, our local delivery workers are working harder than ever. And in order to bring you the things you need, they are putting themselves at risk in the process. A great way to thank them is to tip more than you normally would. And although everyone is on edge after being stuck inside for so long, try and be patient and understanding if your order isn’t there at the exact moment you expect it. These folks are overloaded and doing their best. Be kind.

Support live entertainment

One of the hardest hurt industries — and the one that will likely have the longest wait to return — is live entertainment. Many of our local musicians, comedians and DJs depend on weekly gigs to survive. With the industry all but dried up, they need every bit of help they can get. So if you have a favorite act that you enjoy, maybe head to their website and pick up that t-shirt or coffee mug you never got around to ordering, or that new album they spent so much time in the studio recording. Or if they are doing live performances on social media, maybe throw a few bucks in their virtual tip jar. In times like these, every penny counts.

Help a nonprofit

People often think of donating to charities and nonprofit organizations when they have a few bucks to spare. But with the current state of job insecurity and skyrocketing unemployment, that means fewer and fewer folks are opening up their wallets.

For many nonprofit organizations, the cancellation of large fundraising events is a real concern. The centerpiece of Ocean City’s Doo-Dah Parade each year is the Boardwaddle, a comically slow parade featuring hundreds of lovable, lumbering basset hounds. It was scheduled to take place April 18, but due to the shutdown, the event was canceled entirely.

Though the parade offers a whimsical bit of cute comic relief for paradegoers, it also serves as the year’s biggest fundraiser for Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue, the region’s largest basset rescue group. The organization saves hundreds of hounds each year, providing things like transportation, food and veterinary care for these animals. The Boardwaddle brings in the funds needed to provide those things via donations, t-shirt sales and adoption fees. This year, there is a real concern that due to lack of funds they may not be able to save as many dogs as planned.

“We were devastated at the news that we would not be able to have our 22nd annual Boardwaddle this year due to the COVID-19 virus,” says Lisa Packer, Adoption Coordinator for Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue.

“This event allows us to pull bassets and basset mixes from other areas that need our help. Last year alone we took in 300 dogs. We are doing everything possible to continue to raise funds so that we do not have to alter our intake policies due to our largest fundraiser being canceled. In these uncertain times, donations are greatly needed and appreciated. We can’t thank people enough.”

To donate, go to TriStateBassets.org.

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Associate Editor, At The Shore/ACWeekly

Freelance reporter for At The Shore/Atlantic City Insiders from 2011-2015; Editor in Chief, MainStreetMarlboro.com,2014-2015; Writer for Zagat, 2013

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