As social gatherings are limited and business close, Leesburg’s tight-knit downtown small business community is pulling together.
Even before Gov, Ralph Northam and State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver issued the emergency order limiting restaurants, fitness centers and theaters to hosting 10 patrons at a time, restaurants had begun to close down their dining rooms.
Wine Kitchen co-owner Jason Miller in a video posted online before the order went out said he had decided to close the restaurant’s dining rooms in Leesburg and Frederick, MD, because “we feel like it’s the right thing to do.”
“Obviously, we’re in unchartered territory for all of us,” Miller said. “We’re just making decisions on the fly, and as a leader here in the restaurant, it’s hard to not have a lot of answers, but I don’t, because this is not something that anybody’s done before.”
But a group of familiar faces in Leesburg’s business scene are coming together to help everyone pull through in a number of ways.
Eyetopia Inc. owner Paige Buscema, graphic designer Stilson Greene, and a number of other local leaders are teaming up to put together a website people can visit to find out which restaurants are doing what in Leesburg.
“I wanted to be able to make an easy space where our Leesburg restaurants particularly would have all of their links so that if I’m a consumer, I can go to one page and link to any of the interesting restaurants that I want to follow up on, and then see what kind of service and hours and specialty things are available to me through this process,” Buscema said.
She said the community should pull together around those local businesses.
“I think it’s really important that, as part of the community and as a neighborhood, that we support and spend with one another,” Buscema said. “And these restaurants and eateries, I know, they live close to the margin. It’s hard, and when they don’t have a lot of reserve and something unexpected like this happens, it’s hard. There’s a tipping point for them in a very rapid way.”
At her own business, an eyewear and fashion boutique, Buscema said they are taking precautions and feeling a slow down in traffic. People who walk in the door are required to wash their hands, and only a limited number of people are allowed in one room at a time. The company is also continuing online fittings, and Buscema is always thinking about how to promote the boutique as a destination online.
“So we already have some of those systems in place which will make it a little bit easier for us to reach an audience,” Buscema said. “The question is, will everyone be comfortable enough to spend their dollars?”