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Importance of shopping local during pandemic

If you had asked Michael Salvatore, the owner of Heritage Bikes and Coffee, what he wanted to be when he grew up, the answer wouldn’t have included bikes, coffee, or any combination of the two. However, somewhere along the way, Salvatore opened a shop that integrated the cultures of biking and coffee. 

Before opening a shop of his own, Salvatore spent five years helping to establish Bowery Lane Bicycles in New York City. After he and his family moved back to Chicago, he opened a shop and grew it into a community-oriented place. It’s not just a bike shop or a coffee shop; it’s an artistic space, a working space and a space to relax in. 

Heritage Bikes and Coffee, located on 172 N. Racine Ave. in Fulton Market, had to temporarily close in mid-March due to the pandemic. After more than six months, the shop reopened on Oct. 1, 2020. This was a difficult economic decision for the owner to make. 

“Closing down is expensive, but starting back up is even more expensive,” Salvatore said. “It’s a very methodical, risky idea. [But] we need to make this work, there’s bills to pay.”

In order to reopen, Salvatore completed a list of tasks to guarantee a successful opening: fresh inventory was ordered for the café, machinery was checked to make sure it was running properly and restarted and employees were rehired and retrained. As a small business, after reopening, he cannot afford to close again. 

According to MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce, small businesses report having cautious optimism about the future despite concerns about a resurgence of the coronavirus. 

“There’s no good options other than to pivot, to figure things out when they come,” Salvatore said. “That’s the path everyone in the small business world has to take [when it comes to] how we can survive in this environment.” 

According to Shop Small by American Express, for every dollar spent at a small business in the U.S., approximately 67 cents stays in the local community. 

“We need to break the idea of people’s routine,” Salvatore said, referring to shopping on the corporate level. “Once we get a customer, I hope we get a customer for life.”

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