Here in Maine, we’re not like other states. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. The mom and pop shops, the fledging businesses, the self-employed people — they are a huge part of what makes Maine so special. During this time of uncertainty and stress, when we have to practice social distancing, there are ways we can maintain our sense of community and togetherness.

I’ve seen so many stories of people making face masks for others, or donating to their local food pantries. This warms my heart and reminds me of why Maine is so great. We can also band together and commit to supporting our local businesses in this time of need, because they need our help now more than ever.

Many people are struggling with getting their unemployment insurance payments, or have a sick family member, which makes it hard to spend money on their local businesses. But, for those families who are lucky enough to be more stable and safer right now, one way to show your gratitude is by continuing to buy from a local business. There are many creative ways to do it.

This warmer weather means more time we can spend outside, learning how to take care of plants or to grow a garden. Gile’s Family Farm on 139 Waterboro Road in Alfred is a great place to go for this. You can buy fresh produce and the products you need to start this new hobby or take your green thumb to the next level. Instead of supporting big-box stores for your outdoor yard needs, support places like Andy’s Agway on 13 Cole Farm Road in Dayton. They have a wide variety of products and can deliver, depending on the size of your order.

Tired of making the same recipes? Order take out when you can. This is an easy, and delicious, way to keep our favorite haunts running. Many restaurants are doing curbside pick-up. Try out Bandaloop in 1200 Portland Street in Arundel on 37 Franklin St. in or Town Line Family Restaurant on 10 New County Road in Lyman, or your other favorite restaurant — there are plenty of great options!

If you feel like you never have enough time to read, now could be the time to open a book and learn about something new! Elements on 265 Main St. in Biddeford, which usually operates as a bookstore, bar and coffee shop, is delivering bags of coffee and books from their selection to neighboring areas.

Are you still looking to buy a face mask? If so, local businesses are stepping up to produce them, such as Hyperlite Mountain Gear in the Biddeford Mill Complex on 40 Main St. in Biddeford. I just purchased some from them myself.

While thinking about our local businesses, it is helpful to keep in mind Gov. Janet Mills’ plan to reopen Maine’s economy. With each new phase, more businesses will be able to open safely as long as they meet the standards established and publicly display a badge of compliance. Starting in May, barber shops, hair salons and pet grooming stores, drive-in movie theaters, certain outdoor recreation, auto dealerships and car washes can open. For more information, I’d recommend looking at the full plan, which you can find here:

While I know this is an unprecedented time for everyone, there are ways we can keep up the great sense of community we have, whether by buying a new plant, ordering take out or more! You could also buy a gift card from your favorite local business. That still helps keep businesses going now and is a nice way to treat yourself once we are back to normal. Restarting Maine’s economy will take time, I know that. But if we work together to do what we can, it will make a difference.

If you have questions about how to support small businesses or how to restart your own, please email me at [email protected] or call my office at (207) 287-1515.

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