Eight ways to support Ulster County businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic

The outbreak of COVID-19 and our collective efforts to contain it have had a seismic impact on our daily lives—and on the health of our local economy. As we follow Gov. Cuomo’s “New York State on Pause” plan and isolate in our homes to help flatten the curve, Ulster County’s local businesses are struggling and many of us have suddenly found ourselves either furloughed or without a job entirely. In this time of hardship, community support, both emotional and financial, is more important than ever. Here are eight ways you can help.

  1. Order takeout or delivery from your favorite local restaurants—and tip well.

While all of our restaurants, coffeeshops, and bars have closed their dining rooms, many are offering no-contact curbside takeout for food and booze, and some are delivering. Follow your favorite spots on social media and check their websites to keep apprised of who’s offering these services. If you live in the Kingston area, Restaurantji has this handy guide to establishments offering takeout, delivery, or both. When you place an order, be sure to pay over the phone when possible, and ask them to include a tip in advance (overtip if you’re able; 30-40% is a good starting point).

  1. Support your local farmers.

Many of our farms and farmers’ markets remain open, with special protocols in place for safe shopping. For instance, the Kingston Farmers’ Market is taking pre-orders for fast pick-up, in addition to offering an online sign-up sheet for 20-minute shopping slots in order to control the crowd size and adhere to social distancing guidelines. In addition to supporting local agriculture, this is a safer alternative to the supermarket, where social distancing might be harder (if not impossible) to follow.

  1. Drink local.

Ulster County is blessed with a booming craft beverage industry recognized the world over for exceptional beer, wine, and spirits. Instead of stocking up on your favorite gas-station beer or big-box-chain wine, take the opportunity to support our local vintners, brewers, and distillers by ordering takeout growlers and bottles. For a complete list of local libations, click here.

  1. Buy gift cards.

Had a purchase in mind that’s now on hold? One of the easiest and most effective ways to support local businesses: Buy gift cards from them now to use later. Just call your favorite shop and find out what your options are—if they’ll take payment over the phone and hold the card for you, all the better.

  1. Stream local.

As venues and galleries have closed, many performers and artists have taken to online streaming as a way to share their work and stay connected to their followers. Support them emotionally by tuning in, then support them financially by contributing to their virtual tip jars. Additionally, some organizations provide free streaming content, like Woodstock Film Festival’s “Alternative Projections” series, and many of them are set up to receive online donations.

  1. Write favorable online reviews.

Websites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google Reviews provide a vital service to consumers, but they can also help local businesses immeasurably. Some of these resources have recently updated their policies or paused reviews entirely due to the coronavirus, but even a shout-out or star review on Facebook could help an establishment long after this pandemic has passed. Just stay positive—if you have a bad experience at a local business, remember that everyone is struggling to do their best, and now is maybe not the time for brutal honesty.

  1. Help your neighbors by donating.

As businesses close their doors and employees are laid off, many of our friends and neighbors now face the looming threat of food insecurity and financial hardship. To help those in need, Ulster County has partnered with a slew of organizations to form Project Resilience, a community fund and local food distribution effort to support residents impacted by COVID-19. Learn more about the effort and consider donating here

  1. Take care of yourself.

To help others, you must first help yourself. Pay attention to your physical and mental health and keep your brain and body active and stimulated.

Eat well—the more plants the better.

Exercise—do jumping jacks in the living room, dust off the old workout DVDs, or go for a walk/run/ride on one of Ulster County’s many scenic, secluded hiking and biking trails, like the recently completed 11.5-mile Ashokan Rail Trail

Stay hydrated—drink plenty of water and avoid over-indulging with alcohol or sugary sodas. Stay in communication with friends and loved ones—video conferencing software like Zoom, Hangouts and FaceTime is a great way to socialize from a distance.

Use your downtime productively—whatever that means to you, whether it’s developing a meditation routine, finally finishing those books on your nightstand, learning a new language, or starting a creative project.

Our tourism office is closed to the public, but if you have any questions please feel free to contact us at 800-342-5826 or tourism@co.ulster.ny.us. Stay strong and be well.