There have been many attempts to estimate the number of small businesses in the U.S. that have closed as a result of our collective response to the Covid-19 pandemic, including here and here, and some thoughtful reflections on what these losses mean for both business owners and communities, including here.
Most stories of this sort refer to the impact of the pandemic on businesses, rather than attributing this impact to specific policy decisions, such as forced closures of retail establishments and restaurants. This framing makes the events of the last year seem as unavoidable as damage from a natural disaster. But just as it is the decision to close schools – not the pandemic itself – that has caused children to miss a year of education, it is a series of specific policy decisions that has resulted in the loss of so many small businesses. Whether these policy choices will turn out to have been the right ones will, in the end, depend both on the course of the Covid-19 pandemic itself, and on the damage we will have done to our communities and institutions.
Estimates of tens or hundreds of thousands of small business closures are pretty abstract. I’ve noticed that there does not seem to be a history being written, in real time, as we lose businesses locally. I’d like to remember these places. I live in Northampton, and below is a map of downtown, on which I have marked all the businesses I know of that have closed permanently since March of 2020.
This map doesn’t include closed businesses outside the downtown area (Freckled Fox Cafe, in Florence; Webster’s Fish Hook, on Damon Road), nor does it include business that have moved elsewhere (Guild Art Supply and Pierce’s Frame Shop, both moved to Easthampton). The map also doesn’t include establishments that are temporarily closed, hoping to re-open when restrictions abate (Sylvester’s Restaurant; Packard’s Bar; Ye Ol’ Watering Hole). Obviously, the longer that restrictions on business activity are in place, the less likely it is that these places will re-open.
If you know of other businesses that should be on this map, or if I’ve made errors, please do not hesitate to let me know by email or by a comment on this blog.
Adrian Staub (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thanks as always to Carlo Dallapiccola, Rosie Cowell, and Dave Huber.