By Silvana Clark
The coronavirus has altered the way Americans are spending their summer. Many people seem resigned to have a “staycation” rather than fly on a long-awaited trip to Hawaii or Europe. Those of us lucky to own RVs have the freedom to travel while still practicing social distancing.
So how about considering supporting local businesses whenever we travel? Think about the small mom-and-pop bakery that is a centerpiece of a community. The owners know their customers by name and supply cakes for the high school graduation party. With the lockdown, many stores and restaurants have been shut down. Now as things start to open up, RVers can help by getting a treat at “Barb’s Bakery” rather than a large grocery chain.
Supporting local businesses puts money back in the community. When you shop at a cute, locally owned boutique to get your granddaughter a gift, you’re helping that store keep staff employed. Those staff, in turn, have money to pay their mortgage and get their own treats at Barb’s Bakery. Big Box stores serve a purpose, of course, but often the heart and soul of a community is the small locally owned restaurant that is a favorite hangout for families. Maybe it’s the weekly Farmer’s Market featuring fresh vegetables grown a few miles away.
As RVers, we seek out quaint and interesting towns to discover on our travels. In many cases, it’s the whimsical artwork, cozy restaurants and unique shops that give that place its distinct personality. It’s easy to pull your fifth wheel into the large parking lot connected to Applebee’s.
But how about taking a few minutes to find a side street where you can park and walk to a restaurant serving “authentic German Schnitzel, made by Oma herself”? After stuffing yourself with dumplings, sauerkraut and schnitzel, post a favorable review on their website. That simple gesture often produces increased business. Can you imagine what it would be like to visit a popular place like Solvang, California, or Leavenworth, Washington, and see “Closed” on all the locally owned shops and restaurants?
Shopping at a store owned by a quirky, retired-horse-trainer-turned-boutique-owner adds an element of fun (especially if you chat with the owner). How often can you find a gift shop selling beer-scented candles or a sunflower-growing kit packaged in an egg carton? So buy your RV toilet paper at Walmart. Then try to eat and shop at locally owned businesses that create the interesting communities we like to visit while RVing.