It is true that April showers bring May flowers. Look around. Everything is blooming. Rhododendrons and Azaleas are all displaying their beautiful colors. The ornamental plum trees are amazing. The mini violets, vermilion, prime roses, chives, mint and parsley are glad to see the sun shining.
The news from the Governor has given us a little hope of opening up our businesses again soon, under COVID-19 guidelines. I know the small businesses in our local area have been struggling. I want to thank the local folks for supporting these local businesses by shopping locally and ordering take out from the restaurants. Every dollar we can keep in our community really helps. We are a tourist driven rural community. We depend on tourist dollars to pay the bills and to make a living, however, we depend on the local folks to get us through the shoulder seasons and times in need. These last few months you have all demonstrated you can do that. We need to continue to do so when we get back to our “new normal”. Without your support we will not have a local economy. The Tourist will not come if there is no place for them to shop, eat, drink, sleep or play.
I want to thank the Chamber Board members who took the time to call each and every Business Member that belongs to the Chamber and a few others that don’t belong to the Chamber and ask, How is your business doing? How has the COVID-19 shut down affected you? Are you going to survive this health crisis financially? Are you getting any kind of assistance? Have you had to lay off employees? Will your business be around when the state opens back up? What can the Chamber do for you?
The businesses welcomed that the Chamber was concerned about them. Depending on the nature of the business responses varied. What was mentioned the most was that the locals were supporting them. That was so nice to hear. The restaurants are managing to make payroll for a small staff from the takeout orders, but are not able to pay the bills. Most have had to lay off employees and not sure if they will be around when they need them back. The resorts and motels got hit the hardest. Most said they had more reservations on the books this year than they have had in past years and had been looking forward to a great season before the health crisis hit. Most of all their reservations had to be cancelled. Thousands of dollars in deposits had to be refunded and the loss of income is going to be devastating for some. The Community Centers had to close. Functions and events were cancelled and membership is down, both of which they rely on to pay the bills. The schools were forced to close early. No graduation ceremony for the seniors is very emotional. The school is maintaining the Food Pantry due to a $12,500 grant they received. They are purchasing vouchers to give to families to buy food, fuel and propane at local businesses. Online Education has been offered for children, but most families do not have internet service at their home so it is not an option for many children. Insurance Agents rely on new home owners moving into our community, which has slowed way down. Real Estate was booming the beginning of the year, however with everyone laid off, working from home and having children at home, restrictions on showings have been very strict and limited. Virtual tours on line must be done by buyers before any appointments can be made for showings. Many home owners don’t want to sell right now because they don’t want the stress of looking for another home and moving during this health crisis. The Orchid Medical Clinic is doing well and has great leadership support. Many thanks to the locals for making face masks for the staff. Teleconferencing by phone has been very helpful. WIFI is very limited and was something they asked the Chamber to help with. Most NON-STORE FRONT businesses are maintaining but struggling. Contractors are very slow. Meyers General Store in Blue River is struggling. Liquor sales are up, but the state controls those items and the store owner only gets a very small percentage from sales. Bar liquor sales and the grocery business is what pays the bills. She has stocked the shelves with fresh fruits, vegetables and many grocery items but the locals are not coming in. Let’s try and change that and keep her a float. Blue River needs that store front. The River Guides and Rafting Outfitters reservations are way down and not sure how their season will pan out with all the restrictions. Carol, from The Lavender Farm and Festival, is hopeful she can have an event this year but it will have to be very regulated and on a much smaller scale. There are many other small businesses in the McKenzie River Recreational Valley that the Chamber Board was not able to contract. We understand they are probably facing similar financial problems. If anyone in the community knows of a business that might need the Chambers help please contact one of our board members.
Kisoks upgrades are in progress. The Chamber has agreed to upgrade the Kiosks at both Walterville and Leaburg and we are working with the McKenzie Station and Espresso to put in a new Kiosks there. We are trying to go “Green” with all brochures. The Chamber will purchase “perma-flyers” for each Chamber Member’s Business. The “perma-flyers” are made of plexiglass, are very sturdy, washable and will last for several years. No more wet brochures that get thrown on the ground or in the trash. Tourist can now take a picture of the perma- flyer on their phone, have it with them at all times or write the information down and contact the business directly. The businesses must supply high resolution art work and photos to the Chamber. The Chamber will purchase the perma flyers and install them at the Kiosks. The cost of the art work varies, you can actually do your own on line with programs like Publisher. The cost for perma-flyers for each business for all the kiosks will be about $100.00 per business. The funds will come from the RTMP (Rural Tourism Marketing Plan) grant the Chamber received. Many Signature Events were cancelled this year, so there is money in the grant that can be used to fund the kiosks. There will still be many boxes at the Kiosks for magazines, promotional material and out of area brochures. Hope to start this project mid May and have it completed by the end of the month.
Check out the McKenzie River Chamber of Commerce website: www.mckenziechamber.com A new look, news about COVID-19, EWEB programs, SBA loans, updates on businesses, upcoming events and many nice photos. If you want to advertise on the website contact a board member.
Current Chamber Board Members are as follows: Officers: Nadine Scott, President, Ken Engelman, Vice President , Carol Tannebaum, Treasurer and Edie Blair, Secretary. Ray Blair is our Executive Director. Board Members are: Chere Estrin, Chris LaVoie, Sean Davis, Judy Casad, Melanie Stanley and Penny Scott. We hope to have Jonathan Farmer from Lane Electric Co-Op joining us soon. New Officers will be elected as soon as the board is able to have a face to face board meeting again. When COVID-19 restrictions are lifted we hope to open the meetings to the public again. Currently we are doing Virtual Meetings.
For now, Be Well, Stay Safe and continue to Support Your Local Businesses, please.