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It’s more important now than ever to shop local

Different ways to shop locally available amid the COVID-19 pandemic

 

Businesses are adapting to offer customers different ways to shop while still staying safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Numerous businesses in the area offer curbside pickup, delivery or shipping, private shopping appointments, online ordering and virtual shopping appointments in addition to in-store shopping. More restaurants, too, offer either delivery, curbside pickup or both as an alternative to in-house dining. Purchasing gift cards for someone else or to use later is another option for supporting local businesses as well.

For those whose budgets don’t allow for too much shopping at the moment, local businesses can still be supported without having to spend money. Like a business’s social media page, writing a review for the business or sharing its social media posts are all ways to help promote local establishments.

To encourage more local shopping this holiday season, a bingo game will be available for people to participate in to win prizes, according to Holly Karsjens, executive director of the Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Albert Lea Main Street Program. Participants in the game can either pickup a bingo card or print one off from the organizations’ Facebook pages.

Bingo squares can be marked off from doing things such as purchasing something local, writing a review on Facebook or sharing a business’s post on social media. Karsjens said the game has been designed so that people can still win without having to go out in person if they’re not able to or aren’t comfortable doing so. As the office housing the CVB as well as the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerice and Albert Lea Economic Development Agency was closed to the public as of press time, Karsjens said people could follow the offices’ Facebook pages for updates on the bingo game and to get their cards.

The bingo game is taking the place of the passport program done in previous years. The bingo game will run for about four weeks, about twice the duration of the passport program. The bingo game was set to start Nov. 16 and run through Dec. 10, what would’ve been the downtown Holiday Bazaar. While Karsjens said the Santa visit and other in-person events for the bazaar will not take place this year due to the pandemic, there will be prizes and drawings for people who are supporting local businesses.

Shari Jenson, executive director of the Chamber, said in a letter to the Tribune that Chamber Bucks are another way of supporting local businesses. Chamber Bucks, like gift certificates, can be used to purchase merchandise, products or services at over 200 local businesses, she said, and there aren’t any fees for Chamber Bucks and they never expire.

“Each year, over $25,000 flows through Freeborn County businesses through the Chamber Bucks program and keeps spending local, benefiting Chamber member businesses and the many contributions they make to our local economy,” Jenson said.

The Deer Widows Big Buck Hunt event in early November was a kickoff to encouraging local holiday shopping in a way, and Karsjens said she hopes that success continues.

“The Deer Widow Buck Hunt event was a huge success,” she said. “The retailers were happy they could have something to look forward to and could promote shopping small.”

Karsjens said promoting small businesses and helping them weather the economic effects of the  pandemic has been the main topic of the weekly meetings she participates in with other Main Street programs.

“Normally shopping small, Small Business Saturday in particular, is promoted as helping businesses thrive,” she said. “This year, it’s about helping them survive.”

Karsjens said there’s a gap local businesses are dealing with this year due to the economic strain they’ve been under. She stressed the need for people to wear masks, social distance and wash their hands as well, as that’s the only way to keep case numbers down so businesses won’t be forced to shut down.

“It is getting to a point where they’re not planning for six months ahead, they’re planning for the weeks ahead,” she said.

“As a community, the investment we make in our local businesses is an investment in our city, our county and our quality of life,” Jenson said. “Local shops and restaurants face both the effects of COVID and online shopping, and with cases rising and tighter restrictions taking effect, the fate of our small business community is in jeopardy. We implore you — shop, dine and support local.”

 

About Colleen Harrison

Colleen Harrison is the photo editor at the Albert Lea Tribune. She does photography and writes general-assignment stories.

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