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Opinion: 5 ways to support local businesses amid a pandemic

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In addition to a global health pandemic and a national labor shortage, local retail and restaurant workforces were squeezed even more this month with the opening of Amazon’s 1.3 million-square-foot distribution center in Republic and Costco’s warehouse store in east Springfield, which took hundreds of workers off the market.

It may be the most stressful time to be an independent retailer or restaurateur since the suburban flight of the 1980s. Springfield has consistently demonstrated over the past 20 years of Center City revitalization that it values its local entrepreneurs, particularly in downtown, on Commercial Street and in the Rountree neighborhood.

The city of Springfield and Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce are committed to enhancing quality of place. Inspired planning is well underway for Grant Avenue Parkway to connect Bass Pro Shops to downtown, for Renew Jordan Creek to become a core element of IDEA Commons and for improving areas throughout the community with the Forward SGF comprehensive plan. Just as the community should have authentic places, it needs unique businesses to set it apart for talent attraction and the day-to-day enjoyment of its residents.

Here are five ways customers can reinforce support of small businesses in this season of adversity.

  1. Intentionality. Dedicate a portion of your monthly budget to Springfield-owned businesses. Voting with discretionary dollars is the most meaningful way to demonstrate support of local entrepreneurs. According to, for every $100 spent at locally owned businesses, $68 stays in the community. That is compared to $43 remaining in the community for $100 spent at national chains. That means more funding for schools, roads, police, fire and other core services.
  2. Engagement. Find new ways to interact with your favorite stores and restaurants. Online ordering, QR codes, outdoor dining and delivery services have expanded exponentially over the past 18 months. The use of new technology and systems will be important tools to allow businesses to deliver products and services more efficiently with limited staffing.
  3. Communication. Owners need to hear from you more than ever on how they can best earn and retain your business. They are making difficult decisions on hours of operation, days of the week, products and menu items, so feedback from you will be critical.

Positive reviews on social media will emphasize sending valuable messages to ownership and prospective customers. A little extra tipping thanks a server for their hard work and helps them maintain a livable wage.

  1. Recruitment. Word of mouth continues to be powerful in an ultracompetitive job market. If you know of someone who is looking for new opportunities and would be a good fit for a specific local business, help connect them with the owner. Owners will need to be more flexible with hours and benefits to attract new applicants. Businesses will have to be more conscious of the work environment to build and retain a quality team.
  2. Grace. Eighteen months of riding the uncertainties of the COVID-19 roller coaster has left everyone weary from working longer hours, developing creative new services and covering more menial tasks.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Everybody can be great,  because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace.”

Many of Springfield’s defining characteristics are proudly displayed in its foods and shops. What would the Queen City be without its cashew chicken, Pizza House cracker crust, Coffee Ethic caffeine, Crosstown barbeque, Hurts doughnuts and the breweries like Brew Co., Mother’s, Lost Signal and Hold Fast? Shops such as Five Pound Apparel celebrate those local points of pride in fun ways through T-shirts and remind us that “Missouri is awesome.” Entrepreneurs like Soap Refill Station initiate a concept in their hometown, and then guide it to expansions in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Kansas City.

It is a challenging time for local entrepreneurs. Take time to check out new places. Visit with your favorite business owners and let them know their long hours are appreciated. Ultimately, the most important vote of confidence is where you spend your dollars.

Rusty Worley, executive director of Downtown Springfield Association, can be reached at


1 comment on this story |
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Go to work! Work for the independent business! Ghey are being crushed by this phony pandemic! If the only place you have left to work are Global companies then guess what you will have to do before you can fees your family? Shoot the experimental gene therapy i to you. Wake up Springfield!

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