Ninety percent of businesses in Ulster County classify as small businesses. In order to keep these businesses afloat during the COVID-19 outbreak, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan launched “Shop Ulster Saturday” on March 26.
Ryan designated March 28 to be the first “Shop Ulster Saturday,” where county residents are encouraged to purchase online gift certificates to local businesses. The County Executive announced this aid during a webinar joined by approximately 400 small business members. “Shop Ulster Saturday” is a collaborative effort with the Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“Locally owned small businesses are the lifeblood of our Ulster County economy, and it is especially important that we show them our support during the COVID-19 crisis,” Ryan said in a press release. “We are urging everyone in Ulster County to go online this Saturday and purchase a gift card from one of our many great local stores, shops and restaurants and then use that card later in the year or give it away as a gift for a birthday, anniversary or even during the holidays.”
According to a survey published on March 19 by Goldman Sachs, a U.S. multinational investment bank, 96% of U.S. small business owners said they have already been impacted by COVID-19.
Tyler Borchert, who runs a small business called StoneStyling Workshop and Trestle Gallery in Kingston, said that his business has been negatively impacted by the outbreak.
“The outbreak has for the most part shut my business down,” Borchert said. “I have had to apply for grant money and unemployment, neither of which have provided anything yet. I am basically living off my savings which are dwindling fast. I hope that some money of some kind comes through fast or things open back up so I can get working again.”
Additionally, on Sunday March 22, Gov. Andrew Cuomo closed all non-essential businesses across New York State in order to comply with social distancing standards.
Examples of non-essential businesses that closed under Cuomo’s directive include movie theaters, gyms, casinos, dine-in services at restaurants and bars, shopping malls, amusement parks, hair salons, tattoo parlors and piercing shops, nail salons, and hair removal services.
“These temporary closures are not going to be easy, but they are necessary to [protect] the health and safety of New Yorkers and all Americans,” Cuomo said in a prepared statement.
Ryan advertised “Shop Ulster Saturday” with a Facebook event that reached 331 people.
On the event page, county residents posted what businesses they purchased from, while businesses advertised discounts and sales they were offering.
Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce President Ward Todd encouraged businesses to offer discounts to make “Shop Ulster Saturday” more effective.
“Now is the time to roll out your virtual red carpets and welcome online shoppers, either through special incentives, BOGOs or anyway you can make it easier for shoppers to buy your goods, products or services,” Ward said in a press release.
For example, the Ulster County SPCA encouraged participating residents to adopt animals from their shelter, and a furniture studio, Brandybrook Studios, put together bundles with a 20% discount.
Borchert said that “Shop Ulster Saturday” was not beneficial for his business, but he is trying to stay positive nonetheless.
“People are just not buying art right now,” Borchet said. “Even though money is a concern, I have been able to work on my new website and other art projects at my shop.”
In addition to “Shop Ulster Saturday,” Ryan also announced a 30-day “grace period” on occupancy tax to relieve financial stress on the hotel and tourism industry. Businesses are encouraged to reach out to the Ulster County Department of Economic Development for local and state COVID-19 resources.