Much like the rest of the country, small businesses in downtown Jonesborough were hit hard by shutdowns prompted by the spread of the novel coronavirus.
As the pandemic-related shutdowns continued, Main Street Jonesborough and the Jonesborough Area Merchants and Service Association began researching ways they could help keep those businesses afloat. In May, they began raising funds as part of a Small Business Recovery Fund — eventually raising more than $10,000 that was recently distributed to nine small businesses in town.
“It’s just so unpredictable for all of our downtown merchants,” Tourism and Main Street Director Cameo Waters said. “They don’t know what the future will hold, and if we can do anything as Main Street Jonesborough, the town and JAMSA to support them financially, we’re absolutely going to do it. That’s the goal of this: To try and support them and help them continue to thrive.”
Myra Cardenas, co-owner of Texas Burritos and More, said the grant helped them pay bills and purchase some outside dining tables to allow patrons the option to eat outside if they wanted to. Cardenas said the restaurant is also trying to secure some federal grant money, but so far it hasn’t come to fruition.
“We’re really thankful to have gotten it, that’s for sure,” Cardenas said. “When everything happened with COVID and we had to shut down, we had a moment like, ‘Are we going to get out of this?’”
Texas Burritos and More shut down following Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order shuttering non-essential businesses and limiting restaurants to carry-out and curbside service only. The restaurant was closed for all of April before reopening for curbside at the beginning of May. Cardenas said having the support of the community once they reopened was critical for their survival as a business.
“Starting off, we’re entirely grateful that they even thought about us,” Cardenas said, “but I think it’s really important to keep and help small businesses stay in business. We see one in six shutting down, and it’s kind of terrifying when you think about it, but I feel having a town like ours and people who care about these businesses and want to see them stay around — seeing that outpouring of people and community coming together is really amazing to see.”
Mayor Chuck Vest said the town has invested a lot of time and money to ensure local businesses can be successful, and that being able to offer assistance is “huge.”
“It makes me proud,” Vest said of the support for local businesses. “We all love our neighbors right here, and in a situation like this it just illustrates how special the people in Jonesborough are.”
For more information on the fund, visit jonesborough.com/recoveryfund/. Waters said they hope to distribute more funds early next year, and that she was thankful and proud of town leadership for assisting with the fund.
“We were really excited about the amounts we were able to give,” Waters said. “It really, truly could make an impact on small businesses.”