(Wash your hands! We'll need you when this is over!)
Welcome to the 1st Edition of Mother Mary’s “LOCAL SOUP.”
Serving up tasty local tidbits … with a touch of salt and
an occasional pinch of spice … as needed!
I’ve been working on this blog for six months, but this is not how I intended to introduce myself.
My plan was to offer you an entertaining and eclectic mix of information about local businesses, people, places, issues, events, recipes, day trips, historical tidbits, and other miscellaneous items that make Martin County and the Treasure Coast a true treasure.
But my secret goal is to convince you that, if we want our unique “Community” to survive, we must support small local businesses. In other words … to Buy Local!
I started to publish the first installment two months ago, but things like creating websites and Facebook pages tripped me up. If I had, a lot of you would have laughed at the cataclysmic hypothetical scenarios that leap from my head to my keyboard.
But enter COVID-19 and nobody’s really laughing, anymore.
So, here we are at last and … of course … the first question is:
Who am I to tell you anything?
Fair enough. My name is Mary and I am a mother. I’ll never be the cook my mother was, but this column isn’t really about that kind of soup. I’ve spent most of my 70-odd years stirring up dialogue of one kind or another in Martin County … as a community activist, County Commissioner, attorney, and “Award-Winning Author” of local historical fiction. (Trumpets and drum rolls, please!) I’ll be seasoning this particular pot with stories about people I’ve gotten to know and things I’ve learned along the way.
LOCAL SOUP was inspired by my latest side gig … Small Business Owner … well, more accurately, Mother of Small Business Owner. Boy, have I been on a learning curve!
My son Rob is an idealist.
A year and a half ago, he opened a small grocery store named Palm City Farms Produce & Market that specializes in local foods and … joy of joys … he gave me a role to play … Store Matron!
So, how is a community-oriented food market going to make us rich? It’s not.
But Rob believes he can sell enough locally-grown tomatoes and corn to make the world a better place … and that makes all of us happy.
Where he got such an idea is a subject for another day. But it’s a “Think Globally … Act Locally” kind of concept with roots that go all the way back to Voltaire.
From Day-1, it was obvious that to run a successful small business, you have to build a strong store team.
But it turned out we were also building a store family.
And that’s why we spent the past weekend the same way many of you probably did … trying to devise a plan to keep our family safe during the current Corona Pandemic.
This, too, shall pass. But, in the mean time,
What’s a small business owner to do?
The first question is customers. Hopefully the government won’t shut us down because we sell food and everybody will still need to eat.
So, we should have customers … as long as our suppliers can keep supplying us. (It’s hard enough to find suppliers, even without a pandemic, because the international corporate monopolies try to starve small stores out of business … another topic for another day.)
But other less-essential businesses, like auto shops, beauty salons, and small restaurants, might not be so lucky. Even we may have to cut hours and employees.
And … even though we’re following all the rules … disinfecting our surfaces, washing our hands, using sanitizer, and not touching people ... one of us or our employees could still get sick. Then the only ethical, and possibly legal, choice would be for all of us to go into quarantine.
And bam! We’re shut down, anyway.
What does that do to our employees?
Like many in small businesses, they’re paid hourly and like most new local businesses, we operate on very tight margins and don’t have the reserves to keep paying them if the store is shuttered for any length of time. So how will they be able to eat and pay their rent and medical bills?
Then, assuming everyone survives (Knock on wood. I’m still a superstitious southern Girl at heart.), when can we reopen? What hoops do we have to jump through? How long will they take? Some small businesses might never open their doors again.
That was the dinner-table conversation at our house and houses all over America this past weekend.
We also spent the weekend watching Congress and trying to figure out if anything it or the State is doing will help get us through this. More questions than answers. Does our insurance cover any of it? What programs can we turn to? How do we get that help? Will any of that help get here in time to make a difference?
These are stressful times.
But How does this affect you?
If you’re not involved in a small business, healthy, have enough food, and can still read or watch TV while social-distancing, you may be asking how any of this affects you.
Big time, if enough small businesses fail.
Even if you're well situated to weather a recession, you're probably like most people here. You love our SMALL-TOWN ATMOSPHERE. Well, get ready to kiss that good-bye.
A zillion studies show that small businesses are what makes a small town like ours special. They are not only its backbone. They are its heart, soul, and economic driver.
Independent local business people create jobs for your friends and neighbors and grandkids. They don’t ship their profits off to out-of-town share-holders. Almost fifty cents of every dollar you spend in their stores and shops stays here in the form of the salaries they pay and the goods and services they buy, not to mention the support they give schools and charities and Little League teams. That’s three times more than the big-box and chain stores. And internet stores? The only local they invest in is the delivery guy.
Plus, they’re our neighbors. They go the extra mile to help us out when we need them, like so many did when Hurricane Dorian was looming offshore and in the Bahamas relief efforts. Like so many are offering right now.
The loss of our small businesses would not only cost thousands of our neighbors their jobs. It would also destroy our small-town character and change the way the rest of us live.
Close your eyes and imagine. Without our small local businesses, Palm City would consist of Publix, the chain drug stores, and the banks and gas stations. Downtown Stuart would be a ghost town.
So, when I ask you to help small businesses, I’m actually asking you to help yourselves!
But what can you do?
Once things start shutting down, not much … except pray, send positive messages out into the Universe, and support whatever government programs are put in place. Otherwise, small businesses have to survive this Corona Crisis on their own.
Until then? Shop Local.
But the most important thing you can do is take care of yourself so that you survive, too. When they are able to reopen or return to full operations, business as usual won’t be good enough. Because they will have lost so much, it will be more important than ever to see a healthy, smiling you walk into your favorite local restaurants, salons, stores, and repair shops.
So, wash your hands … and once this is over, get back out there, meet and support your neighbors!
Think local ... buy local … and tell ‘em Mary sent you!
Palm City Farms Produce & Market, is only minutes from Martin Downs, Pt. St. Lucie, Indiantown, and Okeechobee City at the corner of SW Citrus Blvd & SR-714.
Oh, and we carry local craft beer!
3706 SW Citrus Blvd,
Palm City, FL, 34990.