"Support Local" businesses struggling against COVID-19

Some local businesses are wearing their heart on their sleeve

Series: Coronavirus | Story 86

Last updated 5/15/2020 at 10:57am

Courtesy of Gabriel Oh

Gabriel Oh, a local business owner in Mill Creek, made the popular, dark blue "Support Local" t-shirts to encourage other business owners in town.

In the midst of the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 outbreak, some Mill Creek business owners have begun sporting dark blue t-shirts with "Support Local 2020, We Got This" emblazoned on the front.

You may have seen them worn at restaurants, coffee shops, and pet stores all showing the same message. But what's the meaning behind it?

The man behind the idea was Gabriel Oh, owner of the Western Pacific Insurance Group, a small insurance business based in Mill Creek. His goal was to rally and inspire the community to continue supporting their local businesses during this challenging season.

"This community has been a huge support of our business so we just wanted to give back to a lot of the other small businesses that are going through some challenging times for sure," Oh said.

Dozens of local industries have had to shut down completely during the stay-at-home order, leaving some owners unable to pay rent, staff, and other expenses.

Businesses that have stayed open like pet stores and local restaurants have had to reinvent themselves to serve customers from a distance. You can find a directory on the Beacon's website. 

Even still, these businesses have seen a sharp decline in income.

"It's been tough to survive, and the worst part is not being able to keep my staff employed," Greg Johnston said, who is the owner of the Twisted Lime Pub which has been a part of the Mill Creek business community for almost 9 years. "If it wasn't for the community here in Mill Creek, we wouldn't even be able to survive this."

Businesses, like restaurants in particular, have seen sales drop by 30 to 60% from what they typically make, Oh said.

"The ones that are operational are just barely making it, and the ones that are shut down are obviously not making it," Oh said. "They're looking for as much support as they can so that when things do open up, we continue to visit these small businesses so that they can make up for the lost revenue, so they can continue to serve our community."

Oh's way of giving back to the community, that has been the home for his family and his own business for over a decade, has been meeting with them, sharing words of encouragement, and giving out free shirts.

He helped produce hundreds of shirts to give away to local business owners and supporters in Mill Creek. The design was donated by Maurio Lewis, a graphic designer from Rio & Rio Graphic Design, another local business.

Oh said it's important the community supports local businesses and to help one another out when they can while following the stay-at-home guidelines.

Doing simple things like writing reviews online or promoting on social media to show support don't cost any money but can help these businesses reach more customers in the long run and when businesses start to reopen, he said.

"Mill Creek is one of those really unique communities where I think a lot of the community members truly care about supporting small businesses," Oh said. "Hopefully, a lot of the community members will be receptive to our little, local campaign that we're trying to push here with a lot of small business owners."

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