BALTIMORE — The holiday season is coming once again. Usually it’s a time small businesses look forward to as a big economic boost but this year is much different.
"We have been faced with something we never thought we would. I certainly never planned for it," said Claudia Towles, the owner of aMuse Toys in Fells Point.
Comptroller Peter Franchot said his experts estimate more than one sixth of small businesses in Maryland have closed or will close permanently because of the pandemic.
"That’s a lot of dreams coming to an end," said Franchot.
Every year, he encourages Marylanders to shop local and he said this year is much more important. The pandemic has changed how and where we shop.
"While we have pivoted and innovated, we are still in a position where we don’t know what tomorrow brings and we need your support today. We need your support this holiday season," said Towles.
Towles joined Franchot and other industry leaders Monday to kick off this years 'Shop Maryland for the Holidays' campaign.
"If we shop local for the next two months and keep our money in our community businesses and in our communities, we are gonna be a lot healthier state because they are healthy," said Franchot.
"This is your opportunity to help bring some much needed tax revenue, support job creation and support those businesses that have given so much," said Cailey Locklair, president of the Maryland Retailers Association.
Part of the campaign is about education… that there are safe ways to support local, whether online, curbside pickup or limited capacity indoor shopping and dining.
"Digital touch free menus, touchless restroom equipment. We’ve installed doors that open with the crook of your arm or with your foot so you don’t have to touch anything," said Kelly O'Brien, owner of Jasper's & Madrones Restaurants.
O'Brien said if you still aren’t comfortable, even buying gift cards can make a big difference.
"It means a lot to us and every little bit helps," said O'Brien.
This year's campaign also features a new element: financial incentives and extra rewards for members of participating credit unions.
"We’re just better together. It’s Marylanders helping Marylanders. We all need to step up," said Dave Wweiderk, president of State Employees Credit Union of Maryland.
Participating credit unions include:
Five Star of MD Federal Credit Union
Point Breeze Credit Union
FRB Federal Credit Union
Market USA Federal Credit Union
Central Credit Union of Maryland
Atlantic Financial Federal
Educational Systems Federal Credit Union