In any small town, there are local businesses that rely on the community for support. In Houlton, Maine, things are no different. The downtown area of Houlton has a variety of activities that bring the people together for fun times. Many think local businesses are the heart of the town. In the summer, there are farmers’ markets and 4th of July celebrations that go on until midnight. Now there is something bringing many small towns to a standstill.
“Before the governor told all non-essential business to close, I started closing the shop at 2 p.m. because no one was coming due to the local schools and business closures,” Charlene Tabb, the owner of Betty Marie’s Sweet Shop, said. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, local business owners have it rough. Non-essential businesses in Houlton are temporarily closing because of the virus. What used to be a booming community is now like a ghost town.
“Many of the business owners I’ve spoken with are concerned about how long this mandatory shutdown will last. Business owners have rent and suppliers to pay along with payroll to meet,” Charlene said. Social distancing and lockdown may go on for months. She is not sure what the next steps for her business will be.
“It feels odd driving through downtown and seeing all the dark stores through the window. It almost feels like a ghost town,” Melanie Griffin, a local from the Houlton area, said. “I used to stop by a shop on my way home because that’s where people I knew would go. It was an opportunity to socialize and help out the local economy. Now that I can’t do that anymore, I’ve certainly become lonelier.”
Charlene hopes to continue with a new normal after the community starts up again. “We have several businesses in the downtown area that are less than a year old. Mine is one of them. I can only hope that all of us can come through this and thrive together,” she said. These local businesses succeed from the support of the community. After the pandemic ends will be a key time for Houlton.
“I am looking forward to a day in town with a chance to perhaps go from shop to shop and go to the movie theater with other people,” Melanie said. “I think people can support them by continuing to shop at the ones that are left. Go to the drive through and the store. Just remember to follow the social distancing guidelines.”
The people will be eager to continue to support the local businesses. This is something that is an important part of the community. There are those who hope that once it calms down, things will return to a new type of normal. Houlton will one day return to its former glory. Until then, Betty Marie’s Sweet Shop, along with other local businesses, will stay closed, waiting to open again.