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Help! I Need Somebody

By Meg Walburn Viviano

“NOW HIRING”. “HELP WANTED”.

The signs are posted on numerous businesses across the Chesapeake region. From restaurants scaling back their dining room hours to repair shops searching for technicians to school bus contractors facing a drastic shortage of drivers, job vacancies are just the latest hit to local businesses in the pandemic.

First it was the stay-at-home order and social distancing that forced shops and businesses to close or operate at extremely limited capacity. Then it was the inevitable trend of people turning to Amazon and other online services instead of running out to the store. Now, a shortage of employees is making it difficult for many businesses to welcome customers back. “Please be patient with your servers as we are currently understaffed,” say handwritten notes on restaurant doors.

All things considered, it’s an impressive achievement that businesses have survived at all. Then again, there’s a reason we return to our local establishments. It is our instinctive need for human connection that places a local shop head and shoulders above a national chain or an Amazon Prime order.

When we hire a contractor or choose a doctor, we want to build trust in that person—to know we’re getting help from an expert who will give us sound advice and do the job fairly. Even when we’re buying a gift for a friend, a local boutique owner with great taste will steer us toward a great choice in her hand-curated shop. It’s hard to find that kind of inspiration in an online marketplace.

Sure, when I’m in a jam, and can’t get to the store between deadlines and school pick-up, I’ve been known to Amazon Prime some staples like Pull-Ups or protein bars. And judging by the frequency of dark-blue trucks zooming past my house, so have my neighbors.

But those same neighbors turn to each other for advice on local businesses and services. On my community’s Facebook page, residents ask, “Who can recommend a reliable tree service that’s reasonably priced?” Or they pose a specific query: “Who has the best crabcakes for a meal with out-of-town friends?” Or they share insight on a positive experience: “If anyone’s looking to have their bathroom redone, I can’t say enough good things about the company we used.” Sure, plentiful reviews are available on Yelp, Angie’s List, or other services. But people are looking for that business they can trust—the one that comes recommended in their own community.

These are the businesses we celebrate this week in CBM Bay Weekly’s annual Local Business Guide. They are run by members of our own towns and communities. They are real people with whom we can make real connections. And they are strong advertising supporters of this paper, Bay Weekly, which make it possible for you to pick us up for free in the places you frequent.

Whether you’re looking for a home service, a place to eat, or a unique shopping find, consider this issue a resource for community recommendations. Give a local business your support. And while you’re spreading the love around, remember you can support Bay Weekly, too—by asking your favorite business to advertise with us.