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“But then the coronavirus hit …”

It’s an increasingly familiar and ominous refrain as the pandemic drags on.

Do a quick internet search of “Casualty of COVID,” and you’ll see that everything from the ban on single-use plastic bags to jury trials, from cruise ships to the MTA are about to flatline. Tourism, family gatherings, conventions. The list of victims grows daily.

As many as 6,000 department stores in the U.S. have been permanently closed so far this year, according to Coresight Research. Since May several upscale retailers, including Neiman Marcus, Brooks Brothers, and Sur La Table, filed for bankruptcy. This week it was reported that a local favorite, Lord & Taylor — nearly 200 years old and America’s first department store — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and announced plans to close all stores, including the one just down the Post Road in Vernon Hills Shopping Center, as the internet, and now COVID-19, knocked the retailer to its knees.

While consumers might mourn the loss of Lord & Taylor, and its amazing friends-and-family deals, this becomes an opportunity for people to turn to local merchants to find what they need and want to buy. We would also hope that local business owners might expand their offerings to fill the void left by the loss of the department store.

News of another casualty came this week as the popular food market/restaurant Cooked & Co. served its last plate of famous Nutella French toast on Friday, Aug. 28. The eatery’s talented chef — Scarsdale resident Herb Lindstrom — opened C&C on Garth Road in 2012 with a showcase full of gourmet prepared foods; the business grew to serve breakfast and lunch and then added dinner as it expanded in 2018 with full-service dining and creative comfort food in a big, bright space. Life was good. The food was even better!

But then the coronavirus hit and Lindstrom’s establishment fell victim to the downturn caused by the pandemic-related shutdown. When he reopened C&C in June for curbside pickup, his customers returned, but not at a pace to keep the business afloat. In addition, Lindstrom’s small business Paycheck Protection Program loan ran out and the future was just too unpredictable.

Meanwhile, in Scarsdale village, loyal customers of Petticoat Lane boutique are dismayed that it’s leaving Spencer Place at the end of this month, though its flagship store in Chappaqua will continue to sell handbags, lingerie and accessories.

With several small businesses closing their doors for good and others struggling, now is the time that our local merchants need us more than ever as they fight to survive.

Shortly before his last day on Garth Road, Lindstrom implored everyone to support local businesses and restaurants so they can weather the economic storm brought on by COVID-19.

Let’s listen to his advice and make it our purpose to shop and dine locally, and do so to the fullest extent we can. If we do, we can help local shops and services stay viable. If we don’t, we will likely see more of them fold.

Small business is the backbone of our economy and right now, our local business owners need us. Let’s show them we care. Ask them how they are doing. Spread the word about the great service, meals and unique products you find in town. Be a good neighbor. Be a business booster. And then, when this crisis is over, we can all celebrate together.

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