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Sites support NM business

Frontier Restaurant employee James Devlin tries to draw some business from drivers as they pass along Central on March 28. A number of websites and online campaigns to support local businesses have cropped up in recent weeks. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — With the temporary closing of nonessential businesses and strict limitations imposed on restaurants, individuals and organizations across New Mexico have stepped up to help with the creation of multiple online directories, social media campaigns and funds all designed to help promote and support local businesses.

“The world changed dramatically with COVID-19 and for our partners, there’s been a dispro-portionate and catastro-phic impact on our industry, the hospitality industry,” said Tania Armenta, president and CEO of Visit Albuquerque.

Businesses deemed nonessential – including many locally owned retail shops, beauty salons, gyms and more – were ordered to close after March 23.

But as companies closed their doors or had to dramatically restructure operations, sites and campaigns urging New Mexicans to shop local began cropping up.

For Max Baptiste, it became clear local businesses needed help weathering the pandemic when he saw a heartfelt social media post made by Zendo Coffee’s owner Pilar Westell announcing some tough decisions she had to make as a business owner.

“It just really hurt me because she’s a small business owner, she’s been doing well for years, she has the community support,” said Baptiste, who works as art curator for the Albuquerque International Sunport.

Two young women at the Interstate 25 and Jefferson pedestrian overpass let drivers know the Texas Roadhouse on Pan American NE is open for takeout.

With an assist from partners Electric Playhouse, the Albuquerque Economic Development Department, New Mexico United and Explora, Baptiste created iHeartABQ within a day.

As of last week, iHeartABQ.com showed listings of 125 different businesses ranging from restaurants to auto body shops to salons to visual artists. T-shirts are for sale on the site, with $5.05 of sales going to a fund that will support local businesses.

While devastating to Albuquerque’s economy, Baptiste said the virus has

Tania Armenta

highlighted the city’s strengths.

“It really lets people come together,” he said. “I think that’s an amazing thing.”

Baptiste’s site is far from the only local directory that cropped up in the wake of the health pandemic.

The New Mexico Restaurant Association and the New Mexico Hospitality Association teamed up to create What’s Open NM, to give consumers an updated list of restaurants still open for takeout and/or delivery, as well as other businesses.

The Buy for Tomorrow Today site, created by the New Mexico Economic Development Department, lists businesses from across the state that in some cases may be closed but which are offering gift cards that can be redeemed later.

“We know New Mexicans have loyalty to local businesses, and those businesses need our support now more than ever,” said Alicia Keyes, New Mexico Economic Development secretary. “We hope this website becomes one of many tools that can help businesses through this crisis.”

Alicia Keyes

Online campaigns launched by both the City of Albuquerque and Visit Albuquerque are trying to encourage people to shop locally as much as possible.

“We realize that many small businesses are directly being impacted and we’re doing all that we can to support them,” said Jennifer Esquivel, spokeswoman for the Albuquerque Economic Development Department, which released a guidebook for businesses and consumers.

A sign along Louisiana NE lets drivers know that restaurants are open for takeout and delivery.

The city has also been running a social campaign under the hashtag #SupportLocalABQ to encourage people to shop from local businesses whenever possible.

Visit Albuquerque has taken a similar approach.

“It’s been really remarkable just to see the depth and breadth of that type of

Jennifer Esquivel

sharing, of that type of creativity and the kindness that has been happening throughout the city,” Armenta said.

She said that in addition to the online campaign, Visit Albuquerque has been compiling up-to-date resources for businesses and running business directory.

“For a number of years we’ve used the hashtag #TrueABQ so we repurposed that brand hashtag for the time being and we’re keeping an eye out and sharing acts of kindness,” Armenta said.

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