Sterling Heights

Shop local campaign highlights residents, cities looking after their small businesses

Nancy and Joe Mezza's winery had a strong start to 2020. Located in an industrial area of Sterling Heights, Tennerra Winery (formally Buon Amici) saw a significant increase in sales and a growing customer base at the beginning of the year, but that came to a grinding halt when COVID-19 hit. It is the winery's dedicated patrons who are keeping the neighborhood business afloat.

"In response to the shutdown, we created an online ordering system so that people could purchase wine for curb-side pickup," says Nancy Mezza. "Though sales were greatly reduced, our loyal customers helped us through that rough patch. We're grateful to all of them."

The fourth annual Shop Local Macomb campaign wraps up this weekend, but the initiative has felt more serious than previous holiday seasons as small businesses like Tennerra take a financial hit this year. In Macomb County 95% of businesses classify as small businesses, with fewer than 50 people, and community leaders say the initiative to encourage shoppers to seek out independently-owned establishments can make a significant difference to local revenue.

Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor says the pandemic has been tough on local businesses in the city.

"Not only has it resulted in loss of revenue, but in many cases, it has resulted in increased expenses related to the implementation of safety measures," Taylor says. "Small businesses who may lack substantial cash flow are particularly vulnerable."

Nancy Mezza and her husband opened their Sterling Heights' winery in 2017 and were thriving prior to COVID-19 closures.

For small businesses like Tennerra, city initiatives have been a flotation device during a drop in sales. In July, Sterling Heights' Parks and Recreation department facilitated the Mezzas' ability to sell their wine at the Dodge Park Farmers Market, something the couple says saved the business.

"Despite not having the ability to offer tastings, market goers gave us a chance," Nancy Mezza says. "In return, we experienced robust sales through the end of September."

Tennerra Winery has released a Christmas collection to boost online sales this year."The current closure due to recent COVID-19 outbreaks is especially difficult because November and December are typically strong sales months at the winery. Nonetheless, we're hanging in there and truly appreciate our loyal customers."

Participants in the Shop Local Macomb campaign are entered into a draw to win one of 20 $150 gift cards donated by First State Bank. A $1,000 grant for a randomly selected local small business will also be awarded.

"We know that there are many establishments that are struggling and facing incredible hardships right now," says Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel. “So this season, I’m asking our community to spend some of their holiday budget at our locally owned and operated retailers and restaurants. Everyone benefits when we shop local.”

To enter the shop local competition, participants are asked to take a photo of them shopping (either in-person, curbside, or online) with a local retailer, getting takeout from a restaurant or leaving a positive Facebook or Google review on a business page now through December 6 and submit the entry on the county's website.

Residents are encouraged to share the images on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #ShopLocalMacomb and businesses highlighted by consumers through photos or reviews will be automatically entered to win the $1,000 grant. Winning shoppers and businesses will be randomly selected during a Facebook live drawing on Monday at noon.

"Just like the rest of us, our local businesses need our support to emerge strong and healthy from this pandemic,” says Taylor.

Read more articles by Kate Roff.

Kate Roff is a freelance writer and editor, currently based out of Detroit. Contact her at kate@wanderoff.com.au
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