TAMPA, Fla. — It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on local businesses.
“Of course, there were, unfortunately, some businesses that didn’t make it through,” said Kelly Flannery, President and CEO of South Tampa Chamber of Commerce.
The pandemic presented several challenges to local shops, forcing them to navigate many changes.
“They’ve made some adjustments and pivots within their business model to have online offerings and curbside pick up,” said Flannery.
And while unfortunately, some shops have had to close, there are areas in Tampa that have seen growth.
“What’s been really exciting is seeing the new businesses that have emerged in spite of a challenging economic forecast,” said Flannery.
“There are new businesses and new buildings being built. There are old buildings that are being refurbished,” she added.
Not only are new businesses opening up, but established shops are expanding.
“It’s been exciting to see these established businesses in Tampa also continue to grow during this time,” said Flannery.
South Tampa is an area that’s seen a lot of growth recently.
“In 2020 we actually did 27 ribbon cuttings and in 2021 we did more than 30 and so although we didn’t have the opportunity to participate in every single new business that opened on the South Tampa peninsula, we did get to participate in many of them and we look at that growth from year-to-year as an indication that there is a healthy economic environment and that the business community is thriving not only in south Tampa but throughout Tampa Bay,” said Flannery.
In 2021 there were a total of 236 new businesses in South Tampa and 1,027 renewals.
Local experts say this is a good indication of what’s to come.
“We’re going to continue to see growth. We know that there’s new businesses opening. We’re chatting with them every day. We’re helping them through the process of getting their doors open,” said Flannery.
“We anticipate that in 2022 we’re going to continue to move into what does the next normal look like for our community,” she added.
Espresso Yourself Coffee Shop is one of those businesses that opened during the pandemic.
“There are not lots of coffee shops around that are local,” said Nirali Vora, Owner of Espresso Yourself Coffee Shop.
The shop is located right off of South Dale Mabry Highway.
“It's great because like there are so many people in the neighborhood who come and are like 'we love to support your business,'” said Vora.
They’re bringing Italian coffee and pastries to the heart of South Tampa.
“Our quality of food is really great. All the beans, all the milk and everything, we use the best quality. Even our syrups they come from Italy,” said Vora.
Although the South Tampa neighborhood has seen business growth over the past two years, as we enter the third year of the pandemic, community support is crucial.
“It’s been tough because lots of people don’t know about this shop so it’s hard for us to keep going,” said Vora.
Experts say even though things are looking up for our local economy, it’s more important than ever to shop local.
“It’s really important that we consider throughout the year as convenient as it is to get on our phone, open up that app and order something and have it shipped to just really think can I take the extra 10 minutes to drive down the street and purchase that good or that service from my neighbors,” said Flannery.
“We rely on you to come in and just help us grow our business so that way we can keep up with this,” said Vora.
“Tampa is going to continue to be the place to be and the place to move. The place to live work, play, and stay as we like to say,” said Flannery.