Did it really take a pandemic to teach us all that there is no better way to market your business than simply being a good person?!

Nine weeks ago my favorite places to eat and gather closed. For nine weeks I’ve steered clear of southern Maine, and all populated areas (minus a quick visit to pick up new bikes at Rainbow Bicycle in Lewiston – good people making COVID bike shopping easy and safe.) We have not visited our apartments in Portland thanks to having a reliable manager who lives in the building. We have not seen the ocean, despite how badly I want to surf. We have avoided indoor public places entirely, which means no grocery shopping, and discovering just how many locally made food options we have.

Maine farmers and food crafters, and restaurants transitioning into take-out markets have done an amazing job strengthening the local economy, and navigating systems to keep their employees and customers safe. But what’s even cooler than their quick launching of online order forms and curbside pickup routines, is the way these businesses are supporting each other.

A neighbor down the way started a new business this year (anyone within 10 miles is pretty much a neighbor around here, and we don’t have very many.) At first Lauren was selling baked goods out of her home at Kidd Family Farm. More and more customers stopped by every week. Then the pandemic hit. And no one knew how to react. And no one knew how to steer their business. Or even how to feel.

While we’re all still swimming in “I don’t know” land, we’ve become more driven by community good than capitalist endeavors. Rolling Fatties launched their Pay It Forward Fatties. Twice Sold Tales organized a book drive for kids. Maine Trail Finder is offering free trailside service listings. The Orange Cat cafe gave out free baked goods. Alice & Lulu’s handed out bags of groceries. I could list hundreds of examples of Maine businesses giving back to their communities — making clear that the bright side of this pandemic is the overriding mindset of gratefulness.

I may not be running a local business impacted by COVID (minus the cancelling of ChaosU workshop 2,) but I shared similar sentiments.

Maine organizations have never been too web savvy. Finding a directory of local businesses to support is impossible. Farms are mapped out, neighborly Facebook groups have popped up, and Pay It Forward Maine is a great resource, but there’s nothing convenient or easy about trying to buy locally without leaving your house. Word-of-mouth and Facebook are our only means of knowing which businesses are open, what their order procedures are. So let’s keep that word-of-mouth going.

Maine friends, please comment below with resources for how we can support each other. Pimp your own business. Pimp your friend’s business. This is a spring, and maybe a summer of Maine for Mainers.

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