COLORADO SPRINGS — It's been one year since the COVID-19 pandemic forced local businesses to shut down, and some are continuing to feel the impacts.
With small businesses struggling to keep their doors open during this time, "Keep Local Alive," a national movement is stepping in to help them rebound.
When Deanna Johnson bought Black Forest Bistro last year, she didn't know of the troubles that would follow.
"We needed to do some work on the building, we were ready to open in March than guess what, pandemic. We waited and waited then July came and we said we have to open with whatever restrictions were in place," said Johnson.
She opened Black Forest Bistro with strict social distancing guidelines and limited capacity.
"We're very tiny so that was even harder. We had to rearrange tables and maximize the space as best we could. Luckily most people wanted to sit outside in the fresh air so that was easier," said Johnson.
By being the only restaurant in Black Forest, she says the community really rallied to help her stay open.
"We were very lucky, we pivoted to to-go orders when we had to be shut down, shut down. People showed up to that and being open when we could be open," said Johnson.
When she heard about the Keep Local Alive movement launching in Colorado Springs, she thought it would be a good way to unite the community to make a tangible impact during the pandemic.
"Getting groups like Keep Local Alive helps us champion each other and all come together," said Johnson.
The movement was started by Dave Loveland and Bobby Johnson in Omaha, Nebraska last year. It was created to help small business owners in response to the COVID-19 shutdowns.
"It's all about moving consumers to the lip service of supporting local to actually taking action. Although it's a national movement, we can start with real impact at the local level, but it starts with education. Educating consumers where they spend their dollars really matter," said Bobby Johnson, Co-Founder of Keep Local Alive.
The movement provides communities with a message, a framework, and a set of tools.
"Being a national movement, it only works if it's run by local people. So we are going to be recruiting local people who will be ambassadors that are intense about supporting locally owned and will get involved. They will be the face, mouthpiece, and organizers of the different initiatives," said Johnson.
To get started, he says they begin with creating a localized framework and social media engine.
"We launch these Facebook groups in every community and we have one in Colorado Springs. It's called Keep Local Alive Colorado Springs and once we get enough people within the groups, we start to launch initiatives and that's where we can really utilize the size of the group and intensity of those who want to support local businesses. We can start directing them to businesses really needing a boost," said Johnson.
Now that the movement is in Colorado Springs, Johnson says he'll be recruiting for ambassadors. For anyone interested in getting involved, visit the Keep Local Alive Colorado Springs Facebook group.