No offense to the big box stores and larger retail chains. During the pandemic, many of us came to rely, quite heavily at times, on the goods offered and delivered by places like Walmart, Tops, Wegmans and Target.

While we know these are tough times for just about everyone, our main concern when it comes to staying afloat, as we move into gradual phases of reopening, does not involve deep-pocketed retailers.

No, our concern continues to be for our local proprietors — the ones who offer those unique items, services and meals you can't get anywhere else and the ones who employ many of our neighbors, relatives and friends.

As our community slowly begins to return to some semblance of "normalcy" — shopping, enjoying some entertainment and, hopefully soon, grabbing a bite to eat and maybe a drink well away from the confines of home — we remind our readers how important it is to continue supporting local businesses, local business owners and the local people that they employ.

Much of what we know and have heard about COVID-19 has rightly focused on public health and welfare. But, the disease also struck one of the largest blows against the economy that has ever been endured in American history.

There have been some positive signs of togetherness and bravery, for sure, and, thankfully, many people did rediscover a greater sense of community while doing their level best to do business with local restaurants that were still offering meals for takeout and delivery.

It will most certainly take some time for the economy to rebound and there's no firm timeframe for any sort of comeback, as it's still unclear whether opening up will lead to another surge of the disease.

One sure-fire way to make keep the economy moving in the right direction, even if oh-so slowly, is to keep patronizing those small businesses that you either knew and loved before the pandemic arrived or you discovered while learning how to live under lockdown.

There's no shortage of unique, homegrown, locally owned flavor in the communities that compose Niagara County. Ordering an item from them, be it a meal, a piece of jewelry or clothing, or a  isn't expensive and can make a difference. Money spent at businesses in Niagara County, for the most part, stays in Niagara County.

As our region moves into the next phases of gradual reopening, let's all make a point to keep shopping local. Enterprisers in the community will need our help to keep going in the coming months. Doing our part as consumers is a simple yet effective way to express the idea that we're still "all in this together."

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