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With Support From The Community, Alexandria Businesses Find Creative Ways To Move Forward

Alexandria, Va., in the age of social distancing.

Eating inside a restaurant, working out at the gym, swimming in an indoor pool — Alexandria residents will spend this week doing activities they have not been able to experience for months as the city slowly lifts the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Alexandria has been following the Forward Virginia reopening plan, which entered into Phase 2 on Friday. Now, restaurants can offer indoor dining at 50% occupancy, fitness centers can open indoor areas at 30% capacity, swimming pools can expand operations to both indoor and outdoor exercise and social gatherings can have up to 50 people in attendance. 

Most of Alexandria’s entertainment venues remain closed, however, and the city’s office workers are still being encouraged to work from home whenever possible. 

Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam explained that the state’s numbers “look good,” referring to the fact that Virginia’s percentage of positive coronavirus tests continues to decline, as does its number of hospitalizations. These aren’t the only good things happening in Alexandria, however. Local businesses and organizations have been working hard since the start of the pandemic to help keep the community safe and support residents however they can. 

Businesses Doing Their Part

While many local businesses are feeling the strain of the lockdown, they have also found creative new ways to drive business and serve the community. 

Mason & Greens, an independent grocery store, pivoted its business to online sales so the community could still have access to sustainable products during the pandemic. 

Refresh Yoga Center shifted from in-person to online classes so its clients could continue their yoga practice. 

Chop Shop Taco started offering Chop Shop Home Meals, which include food to feed four to five people, along with two rolls of toilet paper and a $25 gift card.

Old Town Books launched a "With Love, From Old Town" subscription service that features a book selected by the store’s staff that is shipped to subscribers each week. The store has also been offering "Writer's Retreat" care packages and virtual author workshops.

Some Alexandria businesses are also offering services at no cost.

Spaeth Hill, a graphic and print design studio based in Alexandria, has been offering its services free of charge or at a discounted rate to the city of Alexandria and any other essential stakeholders to help with the ongoing pandemic crisis response efforts. 

Alexandria-based Green Buzz Agency and the McChrystal Group have put on free informative webinars for businesses. 

“We have been blown away at the creativity and strength of the Alexandria business community in the face of COVID-19,” said Stephanie Landrum, president and CEO of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership.

Alexandria, Va.

Support Pours In For Local Businesses

While Alexandria businesses have been working hard to serve the community, local organizations have been working to keep businesses afloat throughout the pandemic. 

The ACT Now COVID-19 Response Fund has provided emergency funding to nonprofits that are offering critical services and programs to Alexandria residents. 

ALX At Home is a platform set up by Visit Alexandria that lets people experience and patronize  Alexandria’s restaurants, shops and attractions from the comfort of their homes. People can buy gift cards for local businesses, pick up dinner from a local eatery or take a virtual tour through an Alexandria art gallery. 

Good.Works.Alexandria is an Old Town business initiative that encourages people to purchase from local stores and restaurants that will, in turn, donate a portion of their profits to a charity of their customer’s choice. 

Moving Forward 

Looking toward the future, the Northern Virginia Economic Development Alliance has developed a three-part, 12-session webinar series titled Beyond COVID-19: NOVA Business Resiliency Webinars. These webinars feature experts in government financing, staffing, technology readiness, healthy workplaces, new business and revenue models and customer retention who will speak on how local business owners can move forward in the new normal. 

Also, the AEDP is working with landlords and commercial real estate professionals to provide guidance on how to think through the best ways to have office employees safely re-enter the workplace.

“Alexandria businesses are generally excited to see positive progress on the health metrics, and want to reopen and rescale carefully,” Landrum said. “We are all spending time understanding the changes in guidelines. Alexandria businesses know they will only recover if their customers and employees feel safe, so they are making investments to ensure their health and safety.”