The upcoming holiday season is normally a “make or break” time each year for most retailers This is truer than ever this year with retailers coming off the most challenging period in modern retail history.

But wait. It’s an even more challenging dynamic in our area than in most places because on top of the broad impacts of the pandemic, we have the continued closure of our border to non-essential visitation by our Canadian friends — normally a huge element in the North Country retail world. We continue to advocate strongly on this front, seeking the framework of a plan for eventual transition to normalcy with some adjustments in the interim — but the reality is little change can be expected before the new year.

So, we need two things. The first is up to Congress and the President and that’s the final enactment of a new COVID-19 relief bill that includes a second round of the PPP forgivable loan program. A new round is simply crucial to getting a great many of our small businesses such as restaurants among others into 2021 and past this pandemic. (Hopefully this will finally have occurred before this is published but if it hasn’t, it must happen soon!)

The rest is up to all of us, as we must individually and collectively push the mouse aside and make a larger point than ever of spending locally, from holiday shopping to a fresh commitment to our area restaurants who have lost outdoor seating and remain capped at 50% occupancy. Our small businesses and restaurants are an important part of the character of our communities and of our quality of life, employing thousands of our neighbors and paying local taxes, and they are strongly indicating that increased local support is helping them survive — but they aren’t past the threat to their businesses yet.

On the area restaurant front, we recently did a survey and then consulted an advisory group of restaurant owners. The feedback is directly helping us to enhance promotional tools for area dining and further encourage maximum local support through the coming weeks and months. Among other steps, we have taken the prior Dining page on our Adirondack Coast website and re-engineered it to make it a useful tool for area residents as well as visitors, with new content and links. Please give it a visit at and bookmark the site as a handy source of area restaurant information. This new tool and our expanded restaurant promotions are being further bolstered via social media and videos.

On the broader side, we have expanded upon our usual commitment to Small Business Saturday (November 28) to encourage support throughout the remainder of 2020 and beyond. Launched on November 1st, we are working with multiple partners through the end of the year to encourage #shoplocaldinelocal — stressing that it’s more important than ever to do so until we come out the other end of this pandemic. This effort is being backed through various social media channels and through regional media collaborators. A #shoplocaldinelocal page has been added to the Chamber website.

Plus, we are still expanding and continuing our popular Small Business Saturday promotions, with more participants than ever. So be sure to check this out and take advantage.

Hey, we’re the North Country. We’ve been pulling together since March, as we have done in the face of past challenges. And together, we will help our retailers and restaurants survive and, better yet, thrive.

Onward and upward!

Garry Douglas is president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce.