Downtown Ferndale finesses the line between staying in and shopping local

Downtown Development Authorities across the region are caught in a bit of a pickle, encouraging the community to stay home while at the same time remaining responsible for promoting and advocating for their downtown businesses.

In Ferndale, it’s led to a series of innovative efforts to promote both social distancing and local businesses at the same time. Exemplified best by their Support Local & Social Distancing Bingo, the game asks participants to mark their bingo cards for every action completed, actions like, "Almost shook hands but stopped," and "Purchase gift card from a local business."

The first ten winners receive a $50 gift certificate to a Ferndale business of their choice.

The businesses themselves, too, are finding any number of ways to either stay open or offer services for the greater public good, and often both.

Western Market is reserving the 8 a.m. hour for vulnerable populations, which includes senior citizens and those with compromised immune systems. Valentine Distilling has switched from making vodka to sanitizer. Restaurants are combining their menus in efforts to serve more people.

"These businesses are innovating like crazy," says Lena Stevens, executive director for the Ferndale DDA.

"The things that people have been able to develop in a short amount of time, for these businesses to get things up and running is just so impressive."

The DDA is also maintaining a public database of businesses, downtown or not, detailing whether they’re open and if they offer take-out or delivery. The city, meanwhile, is allowing for free 30 minute parking to pick up orders.

On the other side, the DDA is working with the City of Ferndale and the Chamber of Commerce to provide daily updates to area businesses.

"We’ve been trying to push out updates before businesses can ask us the questions, trying to anticipate what those first questions will be," Stevens says.

"Now that the opened or closed questions are becoming settled, we anticipate that we’ll be getting more questions about money.

"It’s time to start researching loans and grants."

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.