Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Commentary: Resilience and innovation on display in Central Washington

| February 3, 2022 1:00 AM

If you’ve been paying any attention to the news over the last year, you’ve probably been hearing more and more about the supply chain issues facing our country. And if you’ve visited the grocery store in the last couple of months, you probably felt those effects in your pocketbook.

It’s easy to generalize from the headlines you see in your local paper, but I wanted to see for myself. So, last week, I spent some time meeting with small business owners in Yakima to hear how our supply chain issues and COVID-19 lockdowns are impacting their businesses, and our communities. What did I find? It’s just as bad as the newspapers say.

A lot of people don’t realize exactly how many small businesses are all around us. Whether it be a storefront on Main Street in downtown Ritzville, the local fruit stand off the highway in Selah or an online boutique operating out of Winthrop, it is very likely that someone you know calls themselves a “small business owner.”

As a farmer and small business owner myself, I understand the challenges that come with running small businesses. Small businesses are the engine of our economy and have created more than half of all new jobs. For Central Washington to thrive, our small businesses need support, especially with all the additional challenges they’re facing.

I had the pleasure of meeting Alison Crisostomo, the owner of Lulu’s Lunchbox, who has a cafe located inside her mother’s business, Vintage Me. Alison had to close her business for six months due to COVID-19 lockdowns. And even after she was allowed to open back up, it was hard to find business because many of her customers were working from home. But she adapted. Now she offers grab-and-go options for a changing clientele, expanded her product lines, and uses social media to attract new customers.

Alison is an example of many small business owners, and Central Washingtonians: She saw a problem and came up with a solution. While her operation may be small, the economic impact she is having on our local community will continue to spread.

Sierra opened up her business, SEWN, in the middle of the pandemic. For her, adapting to ever-changing metrics was vital to launching her business. From virtual classes to small group settings, she’s approached these challenges with an open mind and proven just how resilient Central Washingtonians are.

Maria Lua of Main Stop Restaurant has approached these new challenges with a positivity echoed by the warmth and friendliness of her establishment. While supply chain disruptions have meant she can’t always offer the same dishes to her clientele, she’s adapted by changing her recipes and menu to ensure there are always delicious items to choose from – and the customers who line up out the door for Sunday morning breakfast proves that it’s working.

Their stories are all much the same: there are numerous additional challenges and burdens being placed on our already-struggling small businesses, but many of them are pushing through with creativity and determination. Their stories make me proud to be a Central Washingtonian and remind me that they need our support more than ever right now.

We should be celebrating small businesses every week by shopping locally and supporting our friends and neighbors, whether it be at a local restaurant like Main Stop, a clothing and sundries store like Vintage Me, or a fabric boutique like SEWN. I am proud to represent the small business owners of Central Washington.

There are local, state, and federal resources available to help Americans achieve their dreams of owning a small business. If you or someone you know is looking for assistance with the Small Business Administration, you can contact my Yakima office at (509) 452-3243.

Rep. Dan Newhouse represents the 4th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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