NewsPinellas County


St. Pete encourages everyone to shop and dine local as pandemic impacts linger

Posted at 5:55 PM, Oct 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-28 18:15:39-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The city of St. Petersburg is making a big push to support local businesses.

We’re now seven months into the pandemic impacting Florida, and some mom and pop shops are barely keeping their doors open, but a new initiative just launching in the city aims to help local businesses survive.

After 40 years in business, Amy Hamilton-Wray and her family thought they’d seen it all, but the COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be their biggest challenge yet.

“It’s been very different. It’s operating in a very new fashion,” Hamilton-Wray explained.

Her family’s store, Great American Natural Products, has been able to stay afloat thanks to support from local, loyal customers.

“Our family is sincerely, eternally grateful for that. We love our customers,” Hamilton-Wray added.

Across the street at Stone Soup Cafe and Pub, Victor Joseph also says the local support has been incredible.

“I have a lot of regular customers who are not prepared to go outside and eat in public, but they still message us and let us know they’re thinking about us and once something turns around they’ll be the first ones to come back,” he said.

The Greenhouse in St. Petersburg, a city-run organization that helps businesses thrive, just launched a first-of-its-kind interactive map to help all of us find mom and pop shops.

The map highlights local businesses ranging from gyms, to hair and nail salons, to stores, to doctors and restaurants.

You can even filter the results to show minority or female-owned businesses.

Jessica Eilerman, St. Petersburg’s small business manager, and Greenhouse co-manager, says the map comes at a crucial time.

“In some cases, it is going to be the difference between if those businesses you love are still here or not,” she added.

Olga Bof, who heads up the organization Keep St. Petersburg Local, says many small businesses didn’t qualify for government loans or grants, making every sale pivotal to their survival.

“If we want to wake up from this and recognize the city we love because of its unique local vibe, we have to support it right now,” Bof elaborated.

Hamilton-Wray is making sure her family’s support goes full-circle as we all work to get through this pandemic together.

“We’re trying to keep our money in our community, and we’ve made a pact as our family to do the same thing. Getting take-out food only from local restaurants and only going to local stores to shop.”

“This is probably going to be the most challenging year that our local businesses will ever have to face. These are our friends and neighbors. That’s why it’s important to support them,” Bof added.