As nearly 10 million Americans have now lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is in the midst of an economic crisis and small businesses are particularly vulnerable.
Restaurants and retail businesses like the ones that dot Maine street of downtown Brunswick will be hit the hardest. With people hunkering down after Governor Janet Mills announced a “stay healthy at home” order for Mainers, downtown Brunswick has fallen eerily silent.
As students at a college positioned near the heart of downtown, we find ourselves in a symbiotic relationship with these businesses.
They provide us with locations for exploration, a break from the dining halls, a refreshing local beer, cozy and caffeinated study spots and interaction with the broader Brunswick community. In turn, our patronage bolsters their income during the slow winter months, and students and faculty alike form genuine connections with these business owners and their regulars.
While many of us are far from Brunswick now, it’s time for us to remember who our neighbors are. Though we’re disappointed by the circumstances that have forced us into remote learning, it’s important to keep in mind the losses faced by the Brunswick community in our absence.
Although non-essential businesses are closed by order of the Town Council, many Brunswick businesses are still operating in some fashion or another. The Brunswick Inn, for example, is hosting and feeding four Bowdoin students as the owner struggles to keep her business afloat. Many of Brunswick’s restaurants, coffee shops and breweries have constructed drive-thrus, curbside pick-up stations and side-walk coffee bars.
Though loans and federal and local stimulus money are providing some support to these businesses, we, as a part of their customer base, must also step up and continue to support the businesses we value.
“Keep buying coffee,” says Ben Gatchell, the owner of Dog Bar Jim: The Coffee Shop. “Make me a part of your temporary new routine, as I was a part of your old one.”
For those of us still in Brunswick, we can continue to support these businesses by ordering delivery or picking up food and beverages. Others who are not in town can purchase gift cards with the money they would usually spend there throughout the coming weeks, following the example set by Brunswick resident Senator Angus King.
The efforts to support our community should also reach beyond businesses. Community organizations such as Mid Coast Hospital and Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program (MCHPP) need our help, too. The College has already stepped up by donating its excess gloves, facemasks and toilet paper supplies, and we at the College can continue to make a difference. MCHPP is always in need of donations and, for those in the area, young volunteers.
Our commitment to our community must extend beyond Bowdoin’s campus. Though the routines of life in Brunswick may feel far away, we must ensure that the businesses we cherish are still there when we return.
This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Emily Cohen, Anna Fauver, Julia Jennings, Alyce McFadden, Rebecca Norden-Bright, Reuben Schafir, Jaret Skonieczny, and Tianyi Xu.