BY ALEX HOEFT AND BECCA LOUX | Moonshine Ink
If the 21st century has yielded anything, it’s the overarching presence technology has in our lives. But now, as social distancing has taken effect and businesses have been divided into essential and nonessential castes, the once-pervasive tech world allows a virtual closening to take place.
Each like on a social media post, every online order, and countless Zoom call invitations keep us connected with the world outside our quarantine walls. We’ve been separated from one another, but it’s resulted in an urge to offer more support, especially to the local businesses that are continuing both behind the scenes and on center stage.
For many Tahoe/Truckee businesses, particularly those considered nonessential, entire models have had to shift and staff has been either docked hours or laid off completely. (To those business owners, employees, and folks recently laid off or struggling to keep your business afloat in light of the coronavirus, read Help for a Halted Economy, which includes a comprehensive overview of resources for those in need of financial assistance.)
But there are still those who push to survive and even manage to thrive in this chaotic time.
Alpenglow Sports, a Tahoe City staple, did just that. With outdoor sports and tourism a major part of the Tahoe lifestyle, Alpenglow quickly pushed to a phone-order-based method to keep on keepin’ on after it was deemed nonessential during the COVID-19 pandemic. Owner Brendan Madigan told Moonshine he saw the writing on the wall for what this would mean for his store’s future.
“This is not going to end, in my mind, until midsummer if we’re lucky,” he said. “As a small business, you only have so much capital to get you through a certain amount of time. Doing our cash flow projections and wanting to still pay people to the best of our ability in a time of drastically reduced sales, we saw we needed an infusion of capital.”
Madigan and his team decided to lean on the people who frequented their shop, asking for community support through a Facebook post on March 19. The community responded tenfold, buying $75,000 worth of gift cards in four days. Alpenglow has received “well over $90,000” in gift cards at this point.
“For me, the outpouring of support for Alpenglow is one of probably the most beautiful acts of humanity I’ll get to experience in my life,” he said.
The beauty of operating a small business in a small town is the establishment of relationships, he continued, saying: “You know the owner of Alpenglow or you know the barista at Coffeebar and you want to support them because you have a personal connection … People do understand that small towns are in it together.”
As adaptations to the executive stay-at-home order continue, some have questioned the legality of curbside pick-ups of goods from nonessential businesses. Truckee police chief Robert Leftwich explained that the biggest takeaway from these orders is social distancing; everything after that is gravy.
“Is it reasonable to allow a business to operate in a manner that maintains social distancing and does not force employees to violate the order, while also not encouraging the public to violate social distancing?” Leftwich wrote in an email. “I would say yes. I think you have to strike a balance between compliance and economics.”
Specifically, Leftwich said there’s nothing in the order that prohibits responsibly managed curbside pickup, delivery, or online commerce, though he also noted that nuances of this should be discussed further with the Town of Truckee attorney and planning staff.
As responsibly managed businesses push forward, local media outlets are also strategizing the best ways to keep the community knowledgeable about COVID goings-on. As this crisis became all-consuming, Moonshine itself linked up with local legend JD Hoss at KTKE Truckee Tahoe Radio and, with little-to-no ado, began broadcasting our latest reporting to the station’s tens of thousands of listeners with our new segment, Moonshine Minutes.
Similarly, and with merely the aid of current ubiquitous unifier Zoom, Moonshine staff chose to swap our reporter hats for convener hats and host video conference call conversations among community leaders and members. So far we’ve hosted poignant and productive discussions first with the small businesses community about resources and resiliency, and next with leadership and invested community members about the role visitors — those who some have referred to as “virus vacationers” — play in all this. Visit moonshineink.com/tahoetalks for past and future chats.
In the meantime, and if you’re financially capable, tip a bit extra next time you pick up curbside from a local business. Support local businesses, considered essential or not, through online purchasing and bet on fun future gifts and activities by purchasing gift cards and credit. It goes a lot further than you think.
THINK LOCAL highlights the importance and impact of being a localist, and not just when it comes to shopping — it’s about services, restaurants, medical care, nonprofits, businesses, and even media.
THINK LOCAL is a signature on a statement saying we believe in Tahoe/Truckee and want to see a thriving community we all love.