RI small businesses hoping for strong sales ahead of new restrictions, closures

West Bay

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — This year, small businesses need help more than ever as they navigate and recover from the effects of the ongoing pandemic.

In late March, all non-essential retail businesses were ordered to close for several weeks. Before stores were able to reopen, business owners had to spend money to revamp their space to adhere to new health and safety protocols.

Nov. 28 is “Small Business Saturday,” a day to celebrate and support small businesses. It comes just two days before new closures and restrictions go into place and Rhode Island enters a two-week “pause.”

During the pause, Rhode Islanders will still be allowed to go to restaurants and retail stores with capacity restrictions in place. However, state guidance says online shopping is strongly recommended.

With about a month left to do Christmas and other holiday shopping, the “pause” is coming at a crucial time for businesses to make holiday sales. Small Business Saturday is one of the last big pushes to get customers in stores.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 98.9% of Rhode Island businesses are small businesses.

Warwick-based “Simplicity Print Studio” is holding a Small Business Saturday Craft Fair outside the store on 2260 West Shore Road from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Nov. 28. The new business is also holding its grand opening.

Owner Justin Gontarek says the fair will offer free space to local businesses to sell retail items. He says about 15 to 20 vendors have signed on. Tents and tables will be set up outside, with vendors six feet apart, and temperature checks and logs will also be performed at the entrance, according to Gontarek.

The event will also be streamed on the store’s Facebook page.

Gontarek, who is also a member of the Rhode Island Small Business Coalition, says he hopes by holding the event that crafters and local artists know there is still hope.

“Hopefully, this sheds some light that we can still produce a lot of those holiday sales. That’s basically what it’s driven for,” Gontarek said.

Simplicity Print studio is also selling “Mask Up and Save a Small Business” T-Shirts, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Rhode Island Small Business Coalition. Shirts are available online for pre-order, plus at the event on Saturday.

Monday, Sen. Louis DiPalma and Rep. Carlos Tobon expressed their support for the immediate allocation of $75 million in CARES Act funding to the Restore RI Grant Program, which would provide additional rounds of relief to small businesses across the state.

“If you can swing going to a small business or trying to call them and ask them, ‘How do I buy something from you?’ do it,” Gontarek said. “Small businesses need more help than ever, and I think now is a very good time to support them.”

Wednesday morning, the Rhode Island Small Business Coalition is hosting a “Rally for Small Business.”

According to the coalition, it will be a drive-in rally to ask elected officials to support small businesses and release an additional $150M grants for small businesses and employees.

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