‘You have a friend’

Published 6:37 pm Friday, March 27, 2020

Small business drives much of the economy of the Roanoke Chowan area, and the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic is having an effect on many of those local “mom-and-pop” establishments.

The Chambers of Commerce in the Roanoke-Chowan area, however, are all working to help those businesses through these troublesome times by offering support and sharing resources.

In order to protect the public health, NC Governor Roy Cooper has enacted a number of measures this month that affected many different kinds of businesses. One executive order forced restaurants across the state to close their inside dining areas, leaving many to rely on take-out, drive-thru, or delivery orders only to keep serving the public. And as of Wednesday, March 25, another executive order banned gatherings of 50 or more people and required the temporary shutdown of businesses such as bingo parlors, bowling alleys, indoor exercise facilities, live performance venues, barber shops, beauty salons, manicure/pedicure providers, massage therapy, tattoo parlors, and more.

Other businesses may remain open for now, but social distancing is still strongly encouraged in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

At the Northampton Chamber of Commerce, Director Judy Collier said they, like many others in the area, quickly worked to get information out to their members, such as passing on phone numbers for restaurants still providing take-out services. She also said they were working to pass on information from the Small Business Administration (SBA) to assist businesses which may be struggling during these difficult times.

The Northampton Chamber office is currently closed to the public, but people can still call or email for information. Their number is 252-534-1383 and can also be reached at jcolliernhcoc@embarqmail.com

Lewis Hoggard, Director of the Windsor Bertie Chamber of Commerce, sent an email update to chamber members on Wednesday to share helpful resources and encourage people to continue taking precautions against the spread of COVID-19.

Hoggard shared information on how to look into getting quick loans from the SBA as well as the Golden Leaf Foundation. Some loans may be low-interest or interest-free for up to six-months. See page 11 of today’s edition for an article detailing a Rapid Recovery Loan Program launched by Golden LEAF.

He noted that the Chamber office’s computer lab is currently closed to the public, but they are still open to phone calls and emails to assist anyone who has questions.

“As I say quite often, we are in this together whether we like it or not. Now is not the time for finger-pointing, back-biting or divisiveness. Compassion and calm needs to rule the day,” said Hoggard.

The Windsor Bertie Chamber can be reached at 252-794-4277 or by email at windsorbertie@gmail.com

In Hertford County, both the Murfreesboro Chamber of Commerce and the Ahoskie Chamber of Commerce have been busy actively spreading information and updates through their Facebook pages.

Additionally, Murfreesboro Chamber Director Daryl Williams set up a separate Facebook group called “Murfreesboro NC Takeout” to make it easier for people to post menus, share daily specials, and keep updated about which restaurants in the town are still open.

“We have information available for impacted businesses on disaster declaration SBA loans,” Williams also reported, adding he would share that with chamber members this week.

Like others, the Murfreesboro Chamber Office is currently closed to the public until further notice, but Williams can be reached by email at murfreesborochamber@gmail.com

Amy Braswell, Director of the Ahoskie Chamber of Commerce, said she is trying to share as much information as possible not only about local restaurant options and local businesses which offer online shopping, but also information about other local resources for the public, best virus prevention practices, and SBA disaster relief.

“We don’t just post it one time. We resend it and resend it,” she explained. “We try to cover everybody and everything.”

“We’ve been posting all that, and also making personal contact with our businesses to be sure they know what is available to them, that they’re not just out there alone sink or swim,” she continued.

Braswell said the governor’s office has been great so far in helping answer questions about the assistance available for struggling small businesses, and she said she’s trying to be proactive in distributing that information.

“If people cannot continue to shop from them, they need to know what financial remedies are available to them, for the people that work for them as well as for their business, and that’s what we’re trying to get out,” she explained.

The Ahoskie Chamber office has also locked its doors to walk-in traffic, but Braswell is still able to be reached by phone at 252-332-2042 or by email abraswell@ahoskiechamber.net

“I’ve set myself up to be able to work from home if it comes to that,” she emphasized, noting that support can continue even if the doors aren’t open.