By MARINA WATERS
Small Business Saturday has likely never been more important to Downtown Jonesborough store owners as it is this year.
To aid restaurants, shops and stores in downtown, Jonesborough is ready to host its newly dubbed Small Business Weekend happening Friday, Nov. 27, through Sunday, Nov. 29.
“We are making it Small Business Weekend, like a shop small weekend,” Jonesborough Tourism and Main Street Director Cameo Waters told the Herald & Tribune. “The idea is that the merchants will be open late on Friday night and on Saturday and Sunday they’ll have extended shopping hours.”
The hardship downtown merchants have faced in light of the pandemic is not lost on the town, Waters said. That’s why Main Street Jonesborough and the Jonesborough Area Merchants & Service Association awarded more than $10,000 to local small businesses as part of Jonesborough’s Small Business Recovery Fund this year. But the town isn’t the only one that noticed the struggle. Waters said the community also has a huge interest in supporting small businesses.
“For merchants and small businesses in general, it’s not news that they’re all trying to keep afloat,” Waters said. “I’ve been really impressed with the community and the visitors and how they have that shop-local, eat-local mindset. It’s really big right now. That’s something we hope continues on even when we get back to normal. We’re just trying to encourage everyone to shop local as much as you can this year.”
The changes certainly have not been lost on store owners.
For Texas Burritos & More owner, Myra Cardemas, this year has brought about numerous changes in order to keep employees and guests healthy, including curbside services, deliveries and even extra sanitation in the restaurant.
“We have continued (curbside). We want our older clients to be able to not have to eat at home every single day,” Cardemas said. “We have customers who say, ‘Thank you for still doing this. My mom has an autoimmune disorder and we want to make sure she’s being safe.’”
Like other shops planning specials for the weekend, the restaurant will be offering margarita, beer and cocktail flights and a discount on their Big-O Burritos Friday through Saturday.
But more than selling drinks and tacos, Cardemas and her team hopes the event will help jumpstart their business and others throughout downtown, especially after missing out on key events due to the shutdowns earlier this year.
“Honestly, since we missed out on Storytelling as well as Jonesborough Days, we’re kind of worried about (revenue),” Cardemas said. “But I feel like Jonesborough has really pulled together to support small businesses. That definitely keeps us going. Things like Shop Small really let people know we’re still here, we’re still running our small business, we’re still trying to keep our town and everything local as much as we can — even supporting small businesses ourselves.”
For Crystal Raven store owner Jerome Bowers, the shutdown created a fear in him as well. But getting creative with online sales and social media posts — along with utilizing his greenhouse — is what helped keep him and his family afloat.
“You’re kind of in panic mode,” Bowers said. “You’re trying to figure out how to make things work, how to make things happen. We started doing some online sales and now we’re doing online live shows. That has really helped boost sales because it’s now allowing us to not only sELL to people in Jonesborough, but we are taking our product outside of Jonesborough. We are selling in other states and in other towns.”
Cardemas has also joined forces with local businesses in order to show support. The restaurant has teamed up with Depot Street Brewing Company, Johnson City Brewing Company and even East Tennessee Hemp Company.
“We also work with Tennessee Hemp and do hemp hearts as a protein substitute for people who are vegetarian and vegan,” Cardemas said. “We love being able to offer the hemp hearts. You can toast them or throw them in shakes or smoothies.”
Mostly, Cardemas said, she hopes Small Business Weekend will be a good reminder that stores and restaurants are still there, working hard to safely accommodate locals and tourists alike.
“I hope people are just safe and that they do wear their masks,” Cardemas said. “I know it’s inconvenient sometimes, but it is affecting our residents here as well as our businesses.
“We want to see people come out and support these local businesses. There’s not a lot of people that remember us sometimes. We are here and we’re still trying to live that American dream. So we want to make sure everyone continues to support these businesses and us.”
Bowers with Crystal Raven said his hope for the weekend is that he sees new faces throughout Main Street and at his shop of rocks, minerals, jewelry and more.
“With COVID, I have set my expectations low,” Bowers said. “I keep my hopes high, but I take every day for what it is. We have good days and we have bad days. I hope we do get to see new faces in the store.”
On the bright side of a year riddled with shutdowns and mask requirements, Bowers said there has been a noticeable shift in customer’s desire to buy local and support local business owners.
“I think that’s one thing COVID has done,” Bowers said, “It has made people look a little bit closer at their community and their surroundings. I’ve seen a lot more people stepping up and saying, ‘You know what, I can get that on Amazon, but they probably don’t need the money as bad as this local business down the street.’ That’s how they eat, that’s how they pay the bills, that’s how they pay insurance and clothe their kids. It’s how they make their living. Communities are stepping that up.”
Waters said she has also seen that shift in the community’s desire to buy and shop local, and the town has also been hard at work this year to improvise fun, yet safe events in Jonesborough, such as the drive-in version of Movies on Main and the upcoming Gingerbread Village Contest that will soon take over Downtown Jonesborough. Still, she said, she feels that folks want to be in downtown Jonesborough making memories and supporting small businesses.
“It’s more than just getting the cash registers to ring,” Waters said. “It’s a really special time to bring your family, to make memories, see the beautiful Christmas decorations, see the Christmas tree right beside the courthouse, go into the shops, meet the shop owners and the merchants. Those are the people who keep Jonesborough alive all year long.”
For more information on Small Business Weekend in Jonesborough, go to https://jonesborough.com/special_event/jonesboroughs-shop-small-weekend-coming-up/.