‘They Must Be Hurting:' Consumers Show Support for Vt. Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19

With closures aimed at slowing the spread of disease, some shoppers are taking generous steps like declining refunds for canceled events

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With closures and cancelations during the COVID-19 pandemic forcing many Vermont businesses to totally change the way they operate, some customers are expressing support--including financially.

"We're all suffering," said Alex Dziurzynski, whose Hinesburgh Public House is temporarily closed--leaving the restaurant coming up with alternate plans for what's in the fridge.

Dziurzynski was expecting many of his fresh ingredients would become donations to the local food shelf.

Some loyal diners have started buying gift cards as something of a short-term loan, the restauranteur said.

"We're definitely going to be back, and we're going to throw a huge party when we do come back," Dziurzynski told NECN and NBC10 Boston.

Other consumers are expressing concern for members of the business community, while also observing that closures are the appropriate thing to do right now.

"We're concerned about local businesses," shopper Heather Pummer said on Burlington's Church Street Marketplace Monday. "They must be hurting."

Several Church Street businesses chose to temporarily close, including the flagship scoop shop for Ben & Jerry's.

A Ben & Jerry's employee was giving away baked goods on the marketplace Monday that would go unsold because of the decision to close the location.

When Burlington's non-profit Flynn Center for the Performing Arts was forced to cancel more than six dozen events, including major performances, it asked theater-goers to consider not taking ticket refunds--treating the price instead as a tax-deductible gift.

"I would say it's been about half and half," the Flynn's Kevin Titterton said of patrons choosing to not take refunds. "I've gotten many emails from people that are willing to do that. Some people just want their money back, but it has been striking the generosity of our community in this time--and we're hopeful that continues."

At Barge Canal Market in Burlington's South End, Adelle Lawrence has a whole new way of selling furniture.

"We just want people to be safe," the owner of the vintage store said.

Lawrence is now video-conferencing with customers of her vintage store, so they can social distance, but still shop from home.

"We're going to keep putting more and more on our social media than we do maybe traditionally," Lawrence said. "That's going to turn into our full-time job, rather than being here with customers."

For many businesses and other organizations, it appears to be a time for creativity during a crisis.

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