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How small businesses are shipping faster than big box stores

Amid the covid shutdown, shopping small business isn't just to support the community, it could be the only way to get what people need quickly.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Amid the coronavirus outbreak, retail giants are answering responding to the high demand for important household items. According to the Associated Press, Amazon is prioritizing essential items including "canned beans, diapers, dog food, disinfecting wipes, medical supplies and various household goods. Items like jeans, phone cases and other non-essentials will not be allowed."

Now, customers shopping for non-essential items from mega stores like Amazon and Walmart, are dealing with longer than ideal shipping and delivery time frames. But instead of growing frustrated, it could be time to shop small local businesses.  

Local businesses across the Grand Rapids area are currently offering a slew of services to serve customers in a safe and timely manner, including next day and two-day priority shipping options, curbside pickup options, and porch drop-off options.  

"If you live close enough we're doing porch drop-offs so you can order it that day and have it dropped off in your front porch that same day as well," says Jenna Rice, owner of About Face.

Jenna has come up with creative ways to continue to serve her customers despite being ordered to close the brick and mortar store in Gaslight Village in East Grand Rapids. Customers can place orders via the About Face website or over the phone. 

“I have a bunch of products in bundles together to purchase online including a 'work from home bundle' because I know a lot of people at home are doing Face Time calls and Zoom meetings,” she says. "I don’t charge any extra for shipping, everything is on the website and everything is free shipping."

"We're shipping out orders every day," says Dann Boyles, co-owner of Rebel in Eastown. He says if a big box store is sold out of a certain product, a small business like Rebel may still be selling it.

"If you see something not available on Amazon, it might not be available to us either, but sometimes it is," says Boyles. "We're working with whichever vendors still have some kind of a free flow of products available and then we're loading it (to our website) as soon as we can. Locally we're shipping most things priority one day and then things that aren't as close are going priority two day."

Another safe, quick and convenient way to shop local is curbside pickup.

"For curbside you can call ahead and pay over the phone so you don't have to touch anything, or we can walk out to grab your credit card, swipe it in the store and then return it with a sanitizing wipe," says Brandon Voorhees, the co-founder of Eastern Kille Distillery in Grand Rapids. 

In addition to making hand sanitizer, Eastern Kille Distillery is offering Cocktail Kits, complete with everything patrons need to experiment with mixology at home.

"Since we can't make cocktails here for you all on our floor, we are putting together cocktail kits that have garnishes, all of your fresh juices served, everything that goes in."

And don't forget the pets!

Fido & Stitich located in downtown has offered the curbside pickup option even before the covid shutdown. The dog grooming salon was forced to shutdown along with other non-essential businesses. In addition to offering curbside pickup, owner Allie McDonough is finding creative ways to serve customers.

"The other day someone wanted to see what we had stocked for birthday stuff, so I texted them all of the pictures of all of our birthday options, they picked what they wanted, paid for it over the phone and I brought it out to the car," says McDonough. "Or we can box it up or bag it up and set it by our back door for customers to pickup."

To locate small business in the area, resources like Give and Get Local by Square and Shop Small by American Express provide easy to use directories that can search by city and state. Google Shopping is another tool to find specific items that are available locally. 

Despite finding new ways to stay connected to their customers, small business owners in Grand Rapids say they are looking forward to the return of in person interaction.   

"We miss our Grand Rapids community and our people, we can't wait to see them again."

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