BY JACK MUELLER
Clarkston News Intern
Snow is on the ground, it’s now 2021, and cash is still zipping out most of our wallets.
Seems like a typical year, but it is far from that as masks hide our smiles and an economic shutdown decays our years of savings.
Clarkston, close to heart and home of several locally established businesses, has been overwhelmed by the difficult times brought to us by COVID-19. No matter your opinion on the issue, we have all been affected by it, whether it is personally or those around us.
The difficulty of minimum capacities and shrunken hours have been luckily been reciprocated with the massive tide of hometown pride, as the citizens of Clarkston have come together to keep their friends and neighbors afloat.
During a pandemic, health is magnified to even further extents then normal, and Rebekah’s Health & Nutrition Source has been a hot spot as the locals both returning customers, and new, have stretched a little extra to support a beloved business.
Amanda Lambourn and her courteous team strive to give back to the community despite the struggling times through their “Tree of Life” and going the extra mile to allow for guests to conveniently use their curbside service.
The craziness of 2020 certainly caused some trouble for organizations and Daniel Stiff, general manager of Oakland County Sportsmen’s Club, shared their obstacles throughout the pandemic.
With their bar and restaurant forced to pull the plug on their “open” signs, they rely strictly on their outdoor activities which have been less profitable than in years past “down 85 to 90 percent,” according to Stiff.
However, through it all, Stiff stays positive sharing they are “still here, and we are getting through it” keeping the eyes on the road ahead.
Essential businesses have been crucial for the community and a small-town market has been blessed to be rallied around. Neiman’s Family Market has gone above and beyond in its generosity towards the community giving back.
Neiman’s hours remain broad from 6 a.m.-8 p.m. every day and the staff continues to “pay it forward” through their charitable acts of providing food discounts or in some instances, free meals for over 100 families along with delivering the profit from their reusable grocery bags and online tips to the Oakland County Lighthouse, a local social services organization pursuing the well-being of all.
Ryan Pizzo, of Neiman’s, has felt valued by the Clarkston clan as he has seen more “fringe and new customers up 5-10 percent.”
The increase in traffic, especially from the not-so-familiar faces, has kept the workers at Neiman’s hopeful and smiling, through their masks.
All in all, the homegrown businesses of Clarkston, made up of those who invest themselves in it every day, have certainly faced dramatic, unexpected challenges. As a whole, however, this disrupting time has woven workers and customers together towards the common goal of supporting Clarkston.
“Do you want a local perspective on a national news narrative? It’s not the end of small business,” said Gina Leehy, owner of Digs Consignment. “Our town is showing up in a big way to support local small businesses. I’m grateful for the support and happy to tell you about it. We’re taking extra measures for safety. We have shorter hours, but we’re making it work. We’re experiencing a little less foot traffic but bigger sales. Our community is making the extra effort to shop local. I see it every day.
“I’m amazed and so proud our community. I just want people to know that our community is really stepping up. We’re doing what we can to support each other and we plan to be around after the pandemic.”
“The year 2020 taught me a few things,” Leehy said. “Life is fragile, don’t take it for granted. Many things are beyond our control. Love thy neighbor and care for one another. Others before us have survived much worse and with much less. We, too, will survive. I don’t have to discount to be of value. A smile and personal service is as valuable as the ‘Add to Cart’ button. Moms and teachers. Need I say more? They should wear crowns. Tip everyone. Essential workers, praise them. Everyone is essential.
“We’re living in ‘hard times.’ Sometimes, the national news paints a one-sided doom and gloom picture that just further feeds the fear and the downward slide. It seems the national news reports are negative, reports about the end of small-town businesses and the end of populism. The reports of death tolls, job loss, homelessness, coin shortages, food shortages. Fear, division, and isolation is a trap we can all fall into and I almost fell deep into defeat myself. Honestly, it’s not always a cakewalk for small businesses in the best of times, competing with big box and Amazon and all things digital can be overwhelming.
“Placing advertisements in our local paper and social media helps us to survive as well.
“I’m cautiously optimistic. Our community has come out strong for Digs and other local shops this year and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Leehy added the biggest and best part of any business is the people, “real-life caring humans, community and relationships.”
“That’s why small businesses can stand beside huge enterprises and survive,” she said. “I don’t know what the future holds for my business, but I decided I’m not going down without a fight.
I’ll make the changes I have to and I’m willing to give anything a try.
“The community has been incredibly supportive and that’s what drives me to succeed.”
Let us know how your business is doing during the pandemic!