Calls for small business support have been louder than ever, and small acts like purchasing gift cards for local services, turning to family-owned grocers and farms for fresh produce, or making donations to nonprofits that typically bank on admission prices can all go a long way to helping Main Street stay afloat.
As of April 1 many regional small businesses are still open, albeit with new hours and modes of operation. But it hasn’t been easy to find this new information, beyond scattered social media posts. That's why Jeff Severson, principle of web development agency J.T.S. Design, Inc. in Ulster Park, wanted to create a solution for restaurants, shops, and other businesses to share details about their services all in one place, making it easier for the public to navigate.
“I noticed more and more restaurants posting the changes they made to their hours and delivery options,” Severson explains. “Within days of seeing the increase in restaurant posts, I saw groups pop up on Facebook and Google Sheet documents begin circulating. As a web developer, I tend to look at any online interaction from a user-experience standpoint, and I felt that what I was seeing was confusing and an information overload. That gave me the idea to create a website that would be an information hub for both businesses and consumers during the coronavirus crisis.”
He spoke with friend Sheila Gilday, owner of Gardiner-based web and graphic design team Gilday Creative, about developing the site; soon after, We’re Still Open Hudson Valley—werestillopenhv.com—was born.
“When Jeff mentioned his idea to me, I thought it would be a great resource for the community to have one place to go to find out who’s open what services they’re offering during these difficult times,” Gilday says. “Now is the time for small businesses to come together and help one another.”
They enlisted the help of Kati Haynes, owner of Haynes Marketing + Media in Kingston, to manage social media. “Marketing strategy has been key to getting the word out; in just four days since our launch we received more than 200 signups from businesses in eight counties, and reached more than 22,000 people on social media,” Haynes says. “It’s important to understand each of the platforms and to develop genuine relationships with people through them, especially in today’s world.”
A true labor of love, each team member behind We’re Still Open Hudson Valley is volunteering their time to create, manage, and market the site.
“We all live, work, and volunteer in the Hudson Valley and this is a way that we can use our talents to help others through this time—it was a no-brainer for us,” Gilday says. “It’s a great team coming together to give back some Hudson Valley love.”