The city of Marysville hosted a video conference Tuesday with local leaders and business owners to discuss coming up with a COVID-19 playbook for how small businesses can survive given the challenges of the pandemic.
Portland-based community and economic revitalization and planning consultant Michelle Reeves presented suggestions for what businesses should keep in mind. The Sacramento Area Council of Governments hired Reeves to assist Marysville with revitalization efforts.
Reeves said that consumers do not want to be inside right now and are open to having items delivered that they wouldn’t have in the past.
“We’ve got to move commerce outside,” Reeves said.
One suggestion Reeves put forward was closing D Street a couple of times a week to vehicle traffic to allow businesses to move outside and let customers shop outdoors.
“Great way to make it easier to social distance and encourage more shoppers,” Yuba-Sutter Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Marni Sanders said. “And it seems like a fun way to get out while being safe and still connect with community.”
Reeves encouraged business owners to utilize technology in some way to expand or repurpose their business. She gave examples of small businesses that promoted unique curations or started conducting online sales.
After her presentation, Reeves asked questions of a panel of local and Sacramento-based individuals. They included commercial real estate attorney Danielle Stephens, Silver Dollar Saloon owner Joe Ferrie, community volunteer Judy Mann and Sanders.
“Brick and mortar businesses make communities like ours unique, more connected and more vibrant,” Sanders said. “They truly are the backbone of our local economy and give us our distinctive personality as a community.”
That distinctive personality is what the city hopes to tap into to revitalize downtown, according to Community Development Director Jonathan Wright. He said Marysville has suffered economically for decades, leaving downtown vacancies and an inability to retain long-term business.
“It does not give the impression that it is a lively and attractive place,” Wright said of the downtown area.
The goal is to rebrand Marysville as a destination for both businesses and consumers.
“It’s going to be even more incumbent on us to market ourselves as a cultural spot,” Wright said.
Wright said Old Town Sacramento and Nevada City have succeeded in doing what Marysville wants to do, but that Marysville can do even better given its even richer historic significance. Drawing more businesses to Marysville and diversifying the downtown shopping experience will benefit all businesses.
Sanders said small businesses were already struggling to keep up with the competition from online sales and the economic impact of the virus has been devastating.
“Many of our business owners have invested everything in their businesses. Many did not have any reserves for times like these,” Sanders said. “When businesses had to close, revenue dipped dramatically and in some cases, ceased all together.”
Despite some businesses having to close for good, she said some businesses have been able to adjust in order to find new ways to remain profitable.
“Our community is resilient,” Sanders said. “We have a long road ahead but I am so confident in the capacity of our community to stand together, support each other and work hard.”
Sanders encouraged the community to shop local and practice proper health and safety protocols like wearing a mask and socially distancing when doing so.
“It is estimated that when you shop local you are keeping four times more money in our local economy than with multinational companies,” Sanders said. “... We need that revenue kept in our economy now more than ever.”