Labor of Love live music

Live music was part of Saturday's festivities in the Labor of Love, geared toward shining a spotlight on Ashland's downtown small businesses.

ASHLAND -- Now more than ever, small businesses in communities around the country are grasping for customers amid the iimpact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ashland’s downtown small businesses are no different, as each was affected in a different way.

In an effort to rally the community in this tough time and reacquaint them with their downtown businesses, Ashland Main Street organized an event dubbed ‘Labor of Love’ on Saturday, the first day of Labor Day weekend. The event featured sidewalk sales, store events, live music and a scavenger hunt.

“The idea is that one of the biggest casualties of the whole pandemic is that it really hurt small businesses,” said Sandra Tunnell, executive director of Ashland Main Street. “That’s why we’re here to help small businesses. So if we can encourage more people to come down and just know they’re downtown, that’s perfect.”

One of Ashland’s small businesses hit hard the pandemic shutdown was 44805 Gift Shop, formerly known as Rumours.

“We certainly were affected by it,” said store owner Lisa Heath. “With small businesses you don’t have a lot of reserves. So when you take the opportunity away from us to be open, you can never recoup that kind of money.”

Tunnell encourages Ashland community members to try their best to purchase from local stores rather than big box stores, as it will keep the money within the community and help support local families that own the businesses.

One of the qualities that Tunnell hopes will bring more of the community downtown is knowing that each store is unique in its own way.

“The businesses are all unique so they do their own thing,” she said. “I think people got in the habit of not coming downtown because it is easier to go to a mall or a big box store, but really to come down and support who we have and what we have is just so crucial.”

Julie Mitchell, Owner of Fig + Oak, also points out the charm and niche that each of Ashland’s downtown businesses have.

“I hope community members find unique and fun different things that you can’t find anywhere else,” she said.

While a lot of the support must come from the public, it also comes down to the businesses themselves banding together to help each other succeed.

“It’s important that town people stick together and small businesses keep thriving because our ancestors started with small businesses,” said Sherri Penny, a dealer at Antiques on Main. “So I think it’s important to the community that we all work together and try to support all the businesses that have been handed down from generation to generation.”

Ashland’s Main Street wouldn’t be what it is or where it is, if it weren’t for each individual contributing to its success and progress.

“I would hope that [the public] would take the heart and soul of downtown,” Heath said. “We all work really hard down here to provide great shopping services and food and we hope that they like it enough to keep coming back downtown to this store and others again and again.”

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