If you had asked me two months ago what business ‘normal’ was, I would have considered it a no-brainer. Normal was businesses open and humming, with employees at their desks at 8 a.m. (or close to it) and multiple daily meetings. Normal was coffee at Rhino downtown with potential developers and investors, dozens of quick texts and a flurry of emails demanding immediate information. It just goes to show when we think we’ve got everything under control, life loves throwing a little irony our way.
Over the past two weeks, we have seen businesses closed by the Governor’s directives and others that have thrown in the towel because their business model has turned topsy-turvy and their customer base has dwindled. I have talked to a number of them about the wisdom of closing prior to running completely out of money to be in a better position to eventually reopen. The wonderful thing is that so far, all want to reopen again. The big question is when that reopening will be, and once opened, will they be able to stay that way? While I believe that many of my downtown businesses can muster one reopening, I don’t know that there is the ability or depth of capital for two or three if the virus should continue to reappear. I fear that rushing to reopen and trying to ‘time’ the virus could prove counterproductive and would hurt our businesses even more than they are hurting now. While there is a lot of uncertainty out there, there are also many positives.
Life is slower now for many, the phone is ringing less, the computer is quieter. There is beauty in having the time to call someone for an actual conversation in lieu of a quick text. We are now living in a region- a world- with a commonality of experience. Think about it. You can strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere (mind your social distancing) and be able to talk about how COVID-19 affected you. At the grocery store the other day, there were multiple spontaneous tips from strangers on best places to find limited items. We are seeing many small and thoughtful deeds happening everywhere, often by people with small checking accounts but hearts as big as the great outdoors. If these positives are the ‘New Normal’, then count me in. It’s too bad it took a nasty bug to get us to this point; let’s hope this hangs around long after COVID-19 is a memory.
LIZ SWAINE | Executive Director of the Downtown Development Authority