Illustration by Alex McGuire

This year has been an overwhelming, exhausting, paradoxical intersection of heartbreak and hope. Undoubtedly it has been the worst of times for so many small businesses. 2020 has provided a reminder of the fragility of the local shops, restaurants, cafes, and more at the heart of our communities. And while we can’t ignore the economic impact, all of us — whose lives have been marked by moments of connection and celebration at local places that’s future is uncertain at best — feel the cumulative loss. 

At the same time, this year has sparked new connections and reinforced relationships between small businesses and the people who love them. We have remembered that local businesses are so much more than the products and services for sale, and of the many ways they simply make our communities better. 

As 2020 comes to a close, we’d like to share an InTENtional List of moments that brought us hope. These moments reminded us of both the grit and resilience of small business owners and the ways they look out for and take care of our communities. At the same time, amidst a perpetual call to action in support of local businesses, we are inspired by the ways all of you have responded, amplifying awareness of the businesses you love and showing up to #SpendLikeItMatters.

Small Businesses Lead

Soul of Seattle

Before the pandemic took hold, Edouardo Jordan organized the first annual Soul of Seattle celebration at the Northwest African American Museum in February, benefiting the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle and Rainier Scholars. The Black History Month event showcased and celebrated Black chefs, including Makini Howell (Plum Bistro, Plum Chopped), Trey Lamont (Jerk Shack), Sabrina Tinsley (Osteria La Spiga), Donna Moodie (Marjorie), Matt Lewis (Where Ya At Matt), Dre Neeley (Gravy), Kristi Brown (That Brown Girl Cooks), Harold Fields (Umami Kushi), and Wayne Johnson (FareStart), whose culinary and community leadership have shaped Seattle.

Feeding the Community

In the earliest moments of the pandemic, restaurant owners recognized the immediate impact on food security. As schools closed and family needs quickly outnumbered existing resources, small business owners prioritized caring for those in need — even as the fate of their own businesses hung in the balance. Among many examples of community leadership, Melissa Miranda (Musang), Kristi Brown (That Brown Girl Cooks), and Chera Amlag (Hood Famous Bakeshop) forged a Community Kitchen collaboration. Tamara Murphy and Linda Di Lello Morton (Terra Plata) founded the Food is Love project, Traci Calderon (Atrium Kitchen) scaled up her existing Nourished Neighborhood Community Meals program, and Edouardo Jordan converted Salare into a Community Kitchen.

Delivering Support

When the Washington state Stay Home Stay Healthy order went into effect, several businesses started to deliver their products directly to customers. As Frelard Tamales and Seattle Fish Guys found traction for their delivery programs, they incorporated support for other small businesses into their offerings. Both businesses used their new delivery infrastructure to provide tens of thousands of dollars in additional revenue to other local businesses from Hmong flower farmers, to PoC-owned bakeries, and more.

Essential Workers x Essential Businesses

The list of businesses who stepped up to provide food for frontline workers at hospitals throughout the Greater Seattle area includes hundreds of local restaurants who found creative ways to help express our collective appreciation to hospital and healthcare workers through their culinary talents. 

Communion Restaurant & Bar

The December opening of Kristi Brown and Damon Bomar’s long-awaited restaurant felt like a homecoming. Community gathered outdoors to celebrate the occasion, and despite the persistent toll of the pandemic on hundreds of Seattle restaurants and bars, Communion sparked a hope not only for this family-owned restaurant, but for what Wyking Garrett described as hope for a Black business renaissance in Seattle’s Central District neighborhood.

The Community Response

Chinatown Solidarity

Due to xenophobia and racism, small businesses in Chinatown communities throughout the U.S. were the first to experience the impacts of the pandemic. In early March, we organized #LunchLikeItMatters events at restaurants in Seattle’s Chinatown International District, and you showed up in solidarity with Asian-owned small businesses.

Storytelling Matters

Every small business has a story behind it, and this year it has been a pleasure to partner with Seattle Refined, South Seattle Emerald, and KCTS. From highlighting the people behind businesses like Flowers Just 4-U, The Station, Baked From the Hart, and Tres Lecheria, to celebrating the bounty of South End restaurants, to promoting businesses like Central Cafe and Juice Bar.

Showing Up

Amidst the shuttering of local businesses and racial justice protests, you showed up. Our community grew to more than 40,000 monthly visitors to our website as we made the connection between racial and economic justice, bringing new urgency to supporting BIPOC-owned small businesses. In addition, our community spent more than $100,000 in support of small businesses through our Gift Certificate Marketplace and helped us grow the Intentionalist directory to include 3,000 business listings. 

We All Scream for Racial Justice

This year, you helped tip the scales of economic justice through our ice cream collaboration with Sweet Alchemy. We created three unique and delicious flavors of ice cream using ingredients from local PoC-owned businesses — Fulcrum Coffee, Jerk Shack, Off the Rez, Pot Pie Factory, and Salvadorean Bakery. Three punny flavors and 530 pints of ice cream later, you helped us raise $1,600 for nonprofits advancing racial justice.

‘Tis The Season to #SpendLikeItMatters

This holiday season companies and nonprofit organizations also stepped up to support diverse local businesses by purchasing Intentionalist Gift Cards and Gift Boxes, including leaders from Starbucks, the Seattle Foundation, Virginia Mason, PCC, Swedish, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, OwnTrail, Karat, Knack Collective, Leadership Tomorrow, and more.

This past year has offered a resounding affirmation of the vision at the heart of Intentionalist — a world where we #SpendLikeItMatters, transforming everyday decisions about where we eat, drink, and shop into support for more connected, inclusive local economies.

Now it’s your turn. What’s a moment that brought you hope this year? Comment on our posts on Instagram and Facebook, or email us at [email protected], and you may be included in our end-of-year blog that celebrates the collective impact of our inspiring community.

Thanks for all that you do to #SpendLikeItMatters! Discover awesome brick + mortar small businesses in your community, suggest your favorites, and be sure that you’re following us on social media (InstagramFacebookTwitter).

Intentionalist is your local guide to small businesses and the diverse people behind them. We believe that where you spend your money matters, and we’re sure glad you do too! Whether you identify as a localist, activist, or just a good neighbor, we make it easy for you to connect with, learn about, and support small businesses in your community through everyday decisions about where you eat, drink, and shop.

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