Berkeley launches campaign to encourage support of small businesses

On Small Business Saturday, many local store owners were hoping to get some support, especially as people shop for gifts during the holiday season. The pandemic has changed the way many of them can do business.

"We are just trying to hang on and keep everyone as safe as possible," said Devin McDonald, owner of Mr. Mopps' Children's Books and Toys in Berkeley. The longtime Berkeley toy store has been in business since 1962, but has been closed to the public since the initial lockdown in March. It just reopened for curbside service only and the owners launched an online shop.

McDonald said he misses have customers inside the store, which is part of the experience. "We are such a hands-on business and are so into personally helping all the kids that usually shop here. But in the name of self-preservation, and especially public health, we’ve decided to only go online for pickup.”

This is just one of millions of small businesses in California that has taken a blow during the pandemic.

On small business Saturday, people are encouraged to shop local and support these types of businesses. The tradition follows Black Friday when many deal-seekers spend their money at big box retailers.

People are encouraged to eat at local restaurants too.

La Note, a French restaurant on Shattuck avenue, is  operating at one-third capacity. They offer takeout orders, and patio dining.

"It has of course been a very dramatic change. We are incredibly fortunate we were able to shift gears," said Dorothee Mitrian, the owner of La Note. She said community support is more important than ever this year.

"We really want to make it through to the other side of the pandemic. So if you support us during this time we have a better chances of being here next year when things go hopefully back to normal.”

Berkeley is home to around 5,000 small businesses. The city and the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce launched a #BuyBerkeley campaign to encourage residents to support their neighborhood shops this holiday season.

Mayor Jesse Arreguin called small businesses the lifeline to the local economy. 

"Giving back to the community has always been the hallmark of the holiday season. We have faced great challenges this year and our businesses are at risk, our residents are at risk," said Arreguin.

Friday – the city reactivated its Emergency Relief Fund – which provides financial assistance to small business owners and rental assistance for hardest-hit residents.

"We’ve already seen a lot of small businesses close over the last 8 months and we are deeply concerned we will see more business closures unless we step in to support our businesses," said Arreguin.