By Tara L. Cale

It was called the Great Recession, the late 2000s and early 2010s. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded that is was the most severe economic and financial meltdown since the Great Depression. It’s often regarded as the second-worst downturn of all time. For two years during this time Tony and I owned a bar and grill in Litchfield. Between 2007-2009 we watched sadly as many small businesses around us closed their doors. We struggled to stay afloat, but ultimately succumbed to the economy as well.
Tony was the one that originated the idea for The Prairie Land Buzz Magazine. He said, “What can we do that utilizes your knowledge and talents to help small businesses?” My background is in graphic design and advertising/marketing. I understand the importance of advertising, even in the leanest of times.
After brainstorming for a few days we came up with a plan – create a publication that would allow small businesses to be able to advertise effectively, affordably and to a broad audience. Keep it positive and uplifting – always. The first issue of The Buzz was published in December of 2009. We used every last penny in our  meager savings to pay for the first printing. We are now in our 11th year and many businesses have told us over the years how beneficial advertising in The Buzz has been for them. We were, and are, happy to help.

But now,  I’m not sure how much we can help, with the current situation, which will undoubtedly make the Great Recession pale by comparison.

Small businesses are the backbone of the retail community, in my opinion. But COVID-19 is threatening their survival. We need small businesses! And we need your help to ensure they are still around after this is all over, no matter how long that is.

You gotta hand it to them though! Amid all this chaos, they have chosen not to just lay down and die, but rise up to the challenge.  As soon as the governor announced the mandatory shut down of  businesses, they took action.  Local restaurants were first to be affected by the order, and I know they took a hit, but the majority decided to stay open and offer curbside, drive-though or delivery services and took to social media to get the information to the public as quickly as possible. Several report they are selling out every day because of the tremendous response of the community in supporting them.

Restaurants are not the only businesses being creative and changing up the game to  keep revenue coming in. As I was writing this I had a notification come up for a Facebook feed and there was Perry Brown from Mother Road Antiques in Carlinville with a video of some of his new arrivals. There is a constant influx of such videos on Facebook from business across The Buzz readership area at any given moment.

Many stores are carrying unconventional items for their inventory mix –  like soap, toilet paper, etc – just as a service to their customers. Jubelt’s Bakery and Restaurant in Litchfield is selling flour, sugar, milk, hamburger and other staples.

A group of small businesses in Taylorville have banded together to have a single Facebook page where all the businesses can post their specials so viewers don’t have to go to individual pages ( Small Town Shopping).

Many business are posting humorous posts or videos as well, to provide reassurance and  to spread a message of optimism and unity.

Some businesses are offering a discount for shopping online via their website or social media accounts. Many now offer shipping when they haven’t before. Some even ship for free. Others offer delivery.

I am so proud of all of these small, local businesses for their creativity, ingenuity and grit. But it doesn’t surprise me. After all, small business owners and their staff know what it’s like to work hard and work hard for it. You can throw them a curve ball, but they will do everything in their power to persevere. But this most likely will be the hardest period of their lives, and they need your support. Many will not be able to pull through, but with our help – with your help – more can.

Here are a few things you, as a consumer, can do to help:

• Shop local – we know you can’t go in to the stores in person. Visit their websites and social media accounts. Most are posting items and services available, with instructions on how to pay and receive your purchases.

• Buy gift cards/gift certificates from small businesses now. Maybe you can’t use them right now, but when  businesses reopen you can, and it will help
increase some revenue for them while they are struggling.

• Go ahead and order food from your local restaurants – delivery, drive through, or curbside, whatever they are ordering. And I’m not talking about the chains.  They will make it.  Your corner family owned restaurant may not.

• Leave good reviews for small businesses online.

• Take online classes – yoga, dance, fitness, etc.

And when this is all over, please support small business as often as you can. Not just on Small Business Saturday in November. As a small business ourselves we understand the importance of the support of the community and other small businesses. Everyone’s life has been disrupted. Some more drastically than others. Stick together (figuratively), support each other (from a distance) and we will get through this, together.

We will continue to print The Buzz as long as we have enough advertisers to pay for the magazine, and distribute wherever we can. Some businesses are putting copies of the April issue in to-go, pick up and delivery orders. If you can’t find a printed issue, remember, every issue of The Buzz is online @