WESTERLY — A business resource webpage, new micro-marketing efforts, and focused assistance to members are part of the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce’s response to the coronavirus crisis and its impact on the local economy.
Chamber staff members worked late Monday compiling a list of restaurants that are offering takeout, curbside and delivery services. An updated version of the list is available at https://www.oceanchamber.org/covid-19-resources.
“We see our role as being a conduit for information and a clearinghouse for information that is changing rapidly,” Lisa Konicki, the chamber’s president, said Thursday.
The restaurant list is one of several items on a new COVID-19 Resource Center for Businesses & Residents in the Ocean Community website developed by the chamber, which defines the community as Westerly, Richmond, Hopkinton, Ashaway, Charlestown, Pawcatuck, Stonington, and Mystic. The web page address is the same as the one where the restaurant list is located.
Information on the chamber’s gift certificate program, federal Small Business Administration loans, unemployment benefits, and the virus are all available on the web page. As of Thursday afternoon the page had been visited more than 6,000 times in about three days.
Chamber staff members are making a point to buy meals from local restaurants and to promote the local spots on the chamber Facebook page. The chamber is encouraging others to do the same and to post photographs of the meals on Facebook as a quick marketing move. “In most cases the curbside and takeout can be paid for with a credit or debit card by phone, thereby making the transaction more sanitary than handling cash,” Konicki said.
The chamber is also encouraging local residents to buy gift certificates for specific local businesses or general ones from the chamber that are accepted at dozens of establishments throughout the region. Gift certificates are available by calling the chamber at 401-596-7761.
“We all have a part to play. If everybody does a little bit all of the efforts are going to add up,” Konicki said.
The chamber is also working with local businesses to suggest ways to promote themselves while foot traffic is down or showrooms are closed. For instance, Konicki said, local clothing stores could consider online fashion shows as a means to spur online sales. “QVC has been doing for years and it works for them,” Konici said, referring to the television shopping channel.
Businesses should also review their websites to make sure they are current and reflect any changes that have occurred, she said.
The chamber is also working with local real estate firms to gauge whether summer rentals are booked earlier than usual as people look for safety and the calm of the shoreline. “There could be more people looking to come here,” Konicki said.
The virus, Konicki said, has forced the chamber to move from trying to grow the local economy to trying to maintain it. It’s an effort the tirelessly optimistic Konicki said is daunting. “The reality is that most small businesses aren’t in a position to handle any situation like the one we’re in now,” she said.
The impact of the virus has the potential to exceed the economic impact of the severe local floods of March 2010 and Superstom Sandy in 2012. Both events posed significant challenges to residents and businesses in the region and in both cases the chamber played a significant role in recovery efforts.
“This is a challenge like no other we’ve ever faced ... I have serious concerns for the small businesses of this community,” Konicki said.
Westerly transfer station not accepting bulky items
WESTERLY — The Westerly Transfer Station will accept only household trash in town-approved bags and single-stream recycling (bottles, cans, clean paper and cardboard) from its residents beginning Monday, March 23, until further notice. Residents should not bring bulky items or other recyclables to the transfer station.
Items not accepted at this time include batteries, books, clothing, demolition, electronics, leaves/brush/grass/dirt, light bulbs, mattresses, metal, motor/cooking oil, paint, plastic bags, propane tanks, rigid plastic or tires.
Residents are also reminded not to congregate at the transfer station and to leave the facility once they have disposed of their waste. Any resident who is sick or has been potentially exposed to COVID-19 should not bring recyclables to the recycling center. Officials said that commercial trash haulers and other commercial customers are not affected at this time.