LA GRANDE — Though Thanksgiving plans have been thwarted across the country thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, local businesses and artisans are forging ahead with a plan to make Small Business Saturday safe and successful this holiday season.
Art Center East in La Grande and Crossroads Carnegie Art Center in Baker City teamed up to bring local artists’ products into an online marketplace.
“Many local artists have websites and social media accounts, but many do not,” said Darcy Dolge, executive director at Art Center East. “We see a need to encourage shopping locally — online and in person, with us and with other small businesses — in an effort to push back on the overwhelming shift to web-based, national retailers this year.”
While both art centers currently are open with restrictions on the number of visitors allowed in the buildings, holiday shoppers at both organizations may browse and purchase from home — the safest way to shop during the pandemic while also supporting local artisans.
At La Grande’s art center, customers can make an appointment for a Zoom shopping session, where employees will give shoppers a virtual tour through the inventory and take orders in real time. The hope is that having a virtual option will encourage those who plan to shop online for their holiday gifts this year to keep their spending local.
The gift shop at Baker City’s Crossroads Carnegie Art Center is selling work by artisans on its website and offering special online-only deals on Cyber Monday — follow Crossroads on Facebook to participate in the sale.
“’Shop Local’ is a familiar tagline, but there is real meaning behind it,” said Sarah West, community outreach coordinator with Art Center East. “Small, locally owned businesses are what give our community character and make it unique. They amplify the local economy in a way that can result in higher property values and lower taxes, and they add to the general quality of life for our community. If we want places to stroll in and buy a book or have a beer or browse locally made art when this pandemic is over, we need to go out of our way to be there for these businesses now.”