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Shopping local proves vital as coronavirus pandemic continues

Most businesses have found themselves in a different situation now than they were two months ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but local businesses are experiencing a new type of difficulty trying to stay afloat in a local economy that is forced to stay home.

“With our county and state being asked to stay at home to keep the virus from spreading, the days and possibly weeks without sales will have a negative impact on their bottom lines,” said Franklin County Chamber of Commerce executive director Cassie Medley. “It is crucial that we all be patrons to local businesses all the time but especially now.”

Although most businesses across the board are suffering right now, Medley said local businesses are impacted by the virus more than large corporate business.

“Local businesses depend on the community to be successful,” Medley said.

Kristi Wilbanks, owner of Russellville’s Maggie J’s Boutique Clothing, said the COVID-19 virus has limited sales opportunities for small businesses by forcing everything online and curbside.

“Small businesses are really hurting right now, even with everything we are doing to try to meet customer needs,” Wilbanks said. “It’s important to take every opportunity you can to support local, whether it is shopping online at a store or picking up curbside from a restaurant.”

Several local businesses have changed their hours of operation or moved to curbside pickup only to help curb the spread of the virus and comply with new state laws.

Medley said in this time she has seen local businesses put in extra effort to meet customer needs and ensure public safety remains a priority.

“It is heartwarming to witness our communities going above and beyond their normal duties to provide necessities,” Medley said. “I hope these days are not soon forgotten as a turning point in helping, serving, and caring in our county.”

Wilbanks said it is important for the community to come together during this time and support one another.

“Shopping local right now can make the difference, not only now but by determining who is still around after all of this,” Wilbanks said.

Medley said 75 locally-owned and operated businesses are members of the Chamber of Commerce in Franklin County. These businesses range from restaurants and grocery stores to pharmacies and hardware.

“Our county is very blessed with locally-owned businesses,” Medley said. “Each of them works hard to provide services at an economical price and convenience. When our quarantine is lifted, we will all be ready to shop.  Let us not forget those within our county and show them our support.”