When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, some of the first businesses to feel the intense economic impact were the small businesses on Main Streets across the United States, and downtown Fredericksburg was no exception.
Lucky, they have Fredericksburg Virginia Main Street (FVMS). FVMS is a chapter of the Main Street America Program, an initiative originated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation that focuses on the revitalization of traditional downtowns to enhance the appearance and economic stability of the commercial district, and to improve community pride and quality of life for residents and visitors.
Ann Glave, executive director of FVMS, is a staff of one who has been helping businesses stay afloat during the pandemic. According to Glave, COVID wreaked havoc on Fredericksburg’s main street, but she’s acted as a connector for business owners seeking the grants and funding needed to survive.
“When the pandemic hit in March, our board of directors made the decision to take our zero-interest loan program and convert it into a grant for downtown businesses,” says Glave. “We were able to offer $25,000 in grants fairly quickly. We continued to apply for other grants and have been able to grant over $82,000 for technology and COVID expenses to help businesses with eCommerce and negotiated bulk orders of hand sanitizers for our businesses as well.”
Glave says they also developed signage for the different reopening phases that the business owners could customize to let consumers know what they were doing in terms of COVID safety.
“It made things easy for consumers to see the same poster and check what each business owner was doing,” she says. “We also worked with the city to do sandwich boards to encourage shopping local, mask-wearing and social distancing.”
Nearly one year into the pandemic, Glave says downtown is looking great, and she is excited for the creativity she has seen from the business owners who have easily pivoted to make their businesses accessible and safe.
To incentivize the public to support downtown businesses during the pandemic, FVMS did events like the Holiday Stroll, virtual Scarecrow Contest and Small Business Saturdays. Another new initiative called Scan and Love allows consumers to scan a QR code that takes them to a video of business owners introducing their business.
“Consumers are walking by, but businesses may be closed, or the shoppers may feel uncomfortable walking in, so the videos give insight to the business owner and business itself and takes you directly to their website,” says Glave.
FVMS also obtained a grant in March for new bike racks, benches and planters because more people are outside and moving around so they want to cater to the outdoor elements of main street as well.
Glave says that some businesses like City Vino, River Rock Outfitter and R & R Antiques have thrived despite the pandemic, mainly because of their positive attitude and how they are marketing their business by being creative and thinking out of the box.