As our region holds steady in Phase 4 of the MI Safe Start Plan, many businesses have been permitted to re-open provided they follow certain precautions. This comes as a relief to the small business owners who rely on their revenue to cover business costs and personal expenses. At the same time, it’s also required innovative thinking and additional work on their part. After all, operations today look considerably different than they did six months ago.
Take Sunny Patch Learning Center, for example. Since re-opening in late June, the Flint-based daycare center has made several changes to limit the potential spread of COVID-19. Parents are no longer allowed inside its buildings, and staff now check the temperature of all children as soon as they arrive. Additionally, the business has stocked up on disinfectant wipes and masks, with plans to install touchless trash cans, portable sinks and hand sanitizer stations.
These additional expenses at the daycare have been covered, in part, by Restart Flint & Genesee, a recovery grant program offered through the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce and made possible with generous support from the Consumers Energy Foundation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Ruth Mott Foundation and J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation.
Each of the grant program’s 144 recipients is using the funding to help cover expenses associated with reopening a business under guidelines and requirements for social distancing and safety of clients and customers. In Burton, Rocky’s Great Outdoors is putting the grant toward labor costs related to the retailer’s more frequent cleanings. And Judy’s School of Dance—which is still waiting on the go-ahead to re-open its doors in Flushing—is purchasing steam cleaners so it can more easily sanitize its studio floors.
Programs like Restart Flint & Genesee offer much-needed support at a time when businesses across the region, state and country have a taken a major hit. However, philanthropic and governmental resources alone are not enough to ensure their success. Just as important—if not more so—are the customers who choose to shop small and shop local on a consistent basis. This is why so many businesses are making the extra effort to meet the needs and expectations of customers.
For example, Cranberries Café in Goodrich has moved half of its tables and chairs to storage. Its team members have received safety certifications related to COVID-19, and the business recently opened a small outdoor seating area. At the same time, the owners understand that some community members still feel apprehensive around dining out and encourage customers to let them know what changes they can make to increase their comfort level. Above all, they want their customers to feel safe when visiting their business.
These are just a few examples of the many ways that local businesses are adapting so that they can serve our community. I encourage all Genesee County residents to support small businesses so they can continue to do so.
For more information and stories about small businesses in Flint and Genesee County, follow the Flint & Genesee Chamber (@flintandgenesee) on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Kristina Johnston is the COO of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.