Fears over the spread of COVID-19 quickly shut down or partially shut down many businesses, possibly threatening their financial stability.

While it is not advisable for customers to spend time out of their homes during this time, there may be ways to support businesses in the community.

Many restaurants are offering curbside or pick-up orders even while their dining rooms are closed. Patronizing these businesses in this way provides financial support while everyone is struggling.

Many businesses also offer gift certificates or gift cards, which could serve two purposes during hard times. Not only will purchasing these certificates allow customers to financially support a local business, but those certificates may be given as gifts to those who will continue to struggle once social distancing measures have ended.

They could also be used for celebrations after everything has cleared. Some businesses may even be able to sell certificates over the phone, adding another level of safety to the interaction.

Pine River Chamber Director John Wetrosky suggested that those who paid ahead for appointments or tickets in certain industries may also consider simply rescheduling, rather than cancelling and requesting a refund. For those who do not pay ahead, rescheduling may still provide moral support needed during uncertain times. By rescheduling, the business owner knows to expect business once the business reopens.

"Rather than canceling out," Wetrosky said, "maybe see if you can get a credit for the future, especially for resorts. I'm sure they're going to feel some of this."

In addition, some businesses are now offering delivery of groceries and food orders. Pine River Family Market has set up delivery through its new website - https://www.pineriverfamilymarketdelivers.com/shop/home - and a growing list of restaurants and shops in Crosslake are now working with the Log Church for delivery as well. All customers need to do is call the business and see if they are participants in the program, and they will take care of the delivery.

Crosslake Chamber Director Cindy Myogeto recommends those looking to support local businesses to visit brainerdlakeschamber.com for up-to-date information on which businesses are open. The chamber hotline at 218-829-2838 will also provide that information.

"We are asking businesses, first of all, to let us know if they're open," Myogeto said. "If they're open, we can help promote that they are open so people in the community can find those goods and services that they're curious about ... We want to support them as best as possible just so they can keep their doors open."

Myogeto said a few Crosslake businesses have closed temporarily, but many remain open and are now offering deals.

"Of the restaurants that are open, a lot of them are offering some really good deals - buy a gift card, get another gift card of a lesser denomination for free," Myogeto said. "I think Manhattan's is offering a free six-pack of beer with a takeout order. Maucieri's is doing delivery."

Some of the businesses deemed essential, she added, are in fine shape to continue providing goods and services to the community.

"The local grocery stores are very open and can certainly supply our communities with groceries - if everybody would quit hoarding. Just buy the normal amount of groceries that you would buy on a weekly basis and there won't be a problem," she said.

Additionally, all of the open businesses, Myogeto said, have been vigilant about keeping surfaces as clean as possible and maintaining social distancing.

"All of the shopkeepers are very being very cautious about keeping their stores deep-cleaned and sanitized and so forth," Myogeto said. "We're certainly very cautious about the spread of this virus. However, the small business community would be in serious jeopardy if they just simply had to close their doors for who knows how long."

Katie Wassermann, Pequot Lakes Chamber director, said the Brainerd Lakes Chamber, which includes the Pequot and Crosslake offices, has compiled a restaurant guide to allow quick decisions for communities to order out, drive-thru or pick up when looking for ways to support local restaurants who are able to provide those services right now.

"On our new Lakes Proud website we have a 'Specials' section that lists any deals or specials on our site that includes all three chambers at https://brainerdlakeschamber.com," Wassermann said in an email. "We also encourage people to purchase gift cards from businesses when applicable to keep cash flow going even if they aren’t planning to use now. Otherwise, we’re trying to keep our chamber site up to date on who’s open and who’s closing and are in the process of reaching out to every single member and encouraging them to update as well."

Almost all events are either canceled or postponed, but many retailers still have their doors open, she said.

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