A customer called Cissy Infante Guerrero to let her know they wouldn’t be coming by that week – but no worries – a return to Tucker’s Barbecue was guaranteed.
“It was so sweet of her to call,” Infante Guerrero said of the customer. “She was worried about us and wanted to assure they would be back to see us.”
The months of COVID-19 have consequently tested local businesses. They’ve adjusted operating hours and services, with business models also changed on the fly in some cases. Through it all, these small businesses have drawn upon a great resource. It’s their history and connection to their communities.
Infante Guerrero calls it “a bond” where local residents look out for the well-being of small businesses in their communities. She described how county law enforcement officers in Raymondville rotate their lunch-hour business among Willacy County restaurants.
“Everybody cares about everybody here,” she said at her Raymondville restaurant. “In these situations, you help your community as much as you can.”
Going Local is Getting Bigger
Going local has been more than a phrase during these past months. A national Pulse Research consumer study taken over the summer showed that demand for local goods – and local brands – is growing. The study revealed that purchasing from local brands had increased by 25 percent. National brand increases were up 20 percent while global brand purchases were down eight percent.
It indicates that as U.S. consumers have nested close to home, they have turned to locally-owned small businesses to get them through the times. Pulse Research calls these businesses “local treasures” that are of value by their communities. Keeping these businesses above water is thus a concern many consumers share.
“Supporting local means you’re helping out a friend, a fellow community member,” said Hector Cardoza, a Brownsville realtor. “It’s OK if it means paying a little more. You’re helping to take care of your own.”
Small Businesses Tie To Community Identity
Beyond consumer spending, locally-owned businesses are also interwoven into the identity of a community.
“Small businesses are very important to Weslaco,” said Marie McDermott, the executive director of the Weslaco Economic Development Corporation. “They reflect the personality of Weslaco.”
The Weslaco EDC is among many such organizations in the Rio Grande Valley that have created emergency funding programs to provide local businesses with grants and loans. The added resources help local businesses pay for basic expenses.
“COVID-19 is a challenge,” said Noel Bernal, the city manager of Brownsville, which recently announced an assistance program for local businesses. “We are committed to helping small businesses overcome and adapt.”
Lionel’s Western Wear in Weslaco and the Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy of San Benito adapted by revamping their business websites and becoming more active in e-commerce. The Rancho Viejo Farmers Market in a matter of days had to rework their business model from fixed location sales to delivery and curbside services. In McAllen, Southern Roots Flower Market fostered a sense of community with a series of events before COVID and has carried that spirit through in recent months.
These “local treasures” are confident they will survive the most recent challenge while also renewing their connections to communities. Their local brands keeps them both viable and relevant in a changing world.