The Heights Observer in the season of coronavirus
These past weeks have been a struggle for everyone—especially small businesses and the people who work for them.
The pandemic forced many to close without warning, and it’s a safe bet that some won’t have the financial reserves to ever reopen. Whether social distancing lasts for a month or a year, it’s certain to change the landscape of our community.
At the same time, I marvel at the energy and ingenuity of the people who run these businesses. Over the course of a weekend in mid-March, they deployed apps, set up curbside service and home delivery, and made other changes to keep money coming in—even at a trickle.
In mid-March, the Heights Observer began keeping a list of businesses in Cleveland Heights and University Heights that are operating. You can access the list at https://bit.ly/htsbiz. We’ll continue to update it for as long as necessary, and will include it each Tuesday in our e-mail newsletter (subscribe here for free: https://bit.ly/observernews).
Please use it. Our independent businesses are an important part of what makes the Heights so livable. The people who own them are friends and neighbors; their livelihoods are built around serving you. Doing what you can to give them business now will help them reopen later.
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Much of the work to produce the Observer is done remotely, so the governor’s lockdown order hasn’t scrambled many of our processes.
However, many of our distribution locations are closed, and foot traffic is down sharply everywhere else. So for the time being, we’ll print fewer issues than usual. As I write this, we haven’t yet settled on the actual number.
Also, the Observer is sustained entirely by revenue from ads—which is down 30 percent in this issue from what it was supposed to be.
When I worked in corporate media, that would have been catastrophic. We would have been shutting publications and jettisoning people.
Thankfully, we operate the Observer in a way that keeps fixed costs low, and as a nonprofit we don’t answer to investors. So unless the situation goes on and on, we believe we can see our way through this period without interruption.
But there is another concern. By the time you’re reading this, we’re already working on the May issue—and we’re worried that contributions to the paper will suffer as community activities dry up and people turn inward.
What makes the Observer special is that it’s written entirely by readers. That is to say, it’s the community that’s special; the Observer is just a reflection.
So please send us your stories and we’ll continue to share them. Meanwhile, stay well, stay safe and stay six feet away.
Cleveland Heights resident Bob Rosenbaum is co-chair of the Heights Observer Advisory Committee, and is responsible for its advertising sales and market development.