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Amelia Islander

Local is a Lifestyle

May 04, 2020 11:57AM ● By Tom Barrett
By Julie Simmons • Photos by Sherry Carter

It’s been a tough month for everyone on Amelia Island, as businesses were shuttered and everyone stayed home to slow the spread of Covid-19. Thankfully, we seem to have been spared the worst in our hometown paradise, but that doesn’t mean the virus didn’t have a big impact on the community.

Hotels and resorts have been empty, many are unemployed, and our favorite shops and restaurants have been hit hard. As restrictions are lifted and we begin peeking our heads outside again, each one of us has a vital part to play in our island’s recovery. To get back on our feet quickly, the script is simple: stay well, follow safety guidelines, and BUY LOCAL!

Amelia Island’s eclectic shops and restaurants, and all the entrepreneurs who make them happen, are an integral part of what makes this such a great place to live and work. And now, as things open up, we need to do our part to help the businesses we love survive. If we lose them, we lose a vital part of Amelia island’s unique culture. Local needs to be our lifestyle, because every dollar spent in Nassau County keeps the doors open and people employed.

As we talked with business owners around town, one theme emerged loud and clear—Amelia Island has been doing a great job of standing with them through this crisis. From ordering take-out and shopping to show support to adding generous gratuities, every business owner shared their gratitude for the support they are receiving. Brian Grimley, chef and owner of Lagniappe, summed it up for everyone. “We cannot ask the community to respond any better than they already have. Our customers have been wonderful, and we truly appreciate every single one of them.”

Everyone also agreed that the pandemic has forced them to think about business in a new way. “It’s been wild learning new skills and shifting our business model,” shares Theresa Duncan of Villa Villekulla Toy Store. “Today, we are now a full-inventory online shop at villavillekullatoys.com, with free curbside pickup and delivery!”

Lori and John Lecker are local entrepreneurs who own four stores on Amelia Island: lori+lulu, Pearl, JJ COOPER, and ISOLA Home. With the statewide shutdown, their stores shifted to private shopping and curbside pickup options, in addition to launching new websites. “Since closing the doors, we rallied all the managers to build four new ecommerce websites for the businesses at lorilulu.com, pearlboutique.style, jjcooper.net, and isolaamelia.com.

Lori is so grateful for the support of the community, and she notes that everyone on Amelia Island will be vitally important to restarting the local economy. “If Amelia Island loves the small businesses in their hometown, we need their support!” Lori added that local shopping rather than online shopping can really impact the health of a local small business.

Mark and Donna Kaufman of Story & Song Bookstore Bistro said that shopping from local merchants’ websites not only provides revenue for them to stay open but also puts tax dollars back into our community. “At StoryandSongBookstore.com, customers can get book recommendations, access to virtually any book still in print, download books, and order selections for shipment,” they explain.

At Nassau Health Foods, customers can enjoy safe shopping and customer service at a whole new level with the help of personal shoppers. “Give us a call, we will stay on the phone with you, walk around the store, get exactly what you need, process your payment, say goodbye, and then bag your goods and deliver them to you car when you arrive,” says owner Buster Beaton.

Restaurants have also adapted to serve their customers. “At Amelia Tavern and Pogo’s Kitchen, we are focused on trying to keep our staff together, so we changed our business model to include ‘Take and Bake’ family-style offerings that feed up to 4 people. Pogo’s Kitchen also provides free delivery service,” explains owner Ed Howell.

Every dollar we spend locally will help to keep doors open, but we can also support our favorite businesses via social media. “Rally behind local businesses on social media —‘like’ what they are doing, share it on your pages, give positive reviews and recommendations! This is the new word of mouth,” says Wilson Tennille of The Plantation Shop.

Despite the adjustments made by local businesses, the reality is that stores are seeing sales down by as much as ninety percent. That’s almost unthinkable. As we begin to make purchases delayed by the shutdown, our “new normal” must include a commitment to support the people in our local shops and restaurants who have made a commitment to our community, helping to create this great hometown we love. In the months ahead, let’s make local our lifestyle.