Goodbye Businesses, We Will Miss You

This is a love letter to the small businesses and nonprofits of the North Bay.  We want you to know how much you are appreciated and recognize all the amazing ways you have made living in the North Bay more wonderful than I could ask.  Thank you for your years of providing the goods and services that we needed to make our region more than just a paradise of geography and climate.  We wouldn’t be who we are without your contributions.

And as we watched you struggle through the recession, the fires, the floods and now the pandemic, we need to attest to your commitment to serving the residents of the North Bay and to providing jobs and purpose to so many who have only survived the disasters of the last few years because you did.  Because you did what it took to keep your businesses afloat, to keep your nonprofits’ doors open, to keep helping people despite being in need of help yourselves.

When we asked for a contribution to the PTA or the soccer team, when we wanted sponsors for our fundraisers, you were there.  If someone had cancer, you donated what you could even though profits were slim.  You dug into your savings to rebuild your business, to keep your employees on the payroll, and support your neighbors and neighborhood.

You were always there.  Being a part of the social fabric that defined our communities and made us feel like we belonged.  Our favorite coffee shop, our local watering hole, our restaurant where we celebrated the special occasions of our lives —  anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, and even funerals.  You have been the glue that holds us together, the place we can always go for what we need, the familiar face that knows what we want and provides it for us.

And now, there are predictions a third to half of you will not make it through this pandemic and recession.  Before you go, we had to tell you that you mattered and we will miss you.  We haven’t shown you our gratitude for your sacrifices and generosity for all these years. You could have built your business or your nonprofit elsewhere.  You chose us.  You picked this place and our community to give it all you had.  You taught us about devotion to a cause and to your neighbors.  About determination and resilience and hope.

You could have left us for another place where there aren’t such high taxes and so many expensive mandates to comply with as in the North Bay and California.  But you stayed as the minimum wage increased and your revenues didn’t.  You stayed when you had to shut down your business and figure out how to serve food for takeout or outside dining.  You persevered when you couldn’t open your store to the public and had to have customers make an appointment to ensure social distancing or pick up an item.

And now for the few of you who were able to get the relief money to keep your employees and stay in operation, the money is running out or expired.  You have asked for more help, but it isn’t forthcoming. You are seeing the reversal of the ability to open up as the virus keeps spreading and isn’t under control. You are living in a time that the military coined a term for:  VUCA, which stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.  One of those situations is bad enough, but all four at the same time is a killer.

We mourn those businesses and nonprofits who have been the heart and soul of the North Bay but will be casualties of this pandemic and the failures of leadership in this time of crisis.  For those who survive, you are shining lights of resiliency and we applaud your ability to find a way through these challenging and precarious times.  You are betting on a better day, and we want you to win that bet!  And we, your customers and community, can help ensure that survival by giving you our business and shopping local as much as possible.  More than ever, we need each other.

To those for whom the pandemic becomes the fatal blow in the wake of accumulated disasters, we will not be the same without you.  Your loss is our loss.  You have been a faithful partner in our lives, and we thank you for all those years we were able to count on you.  It is a time of great sadness that we have to say goodbye, but please know how much we loved you in our communities and that you will be sorely missed after you are gone.  Thank you for all the support, wonder and strength you have given, in good times and bad, to the North Bay.  You made our corner of the world a better place to live.

Printed in North Bay Business Journal, Monday August 10, 2020

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