Cheshire survey seeks to bolster local businesses in wake of pandemic

CHESHIRE — The town’s Economic Development Commission and its Chamber of Commerce have begun circulating an online survey asking business owners and consumers what can be done to help the local economy recover from the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The seven-question survey began circulating last week , said Jerry Sitko, the town’s economic development coordinator. It will remain online for several more weeks, Sitko said.

“I think there are a lot of businesses in town that are under tremendous stress and some are doing better than others,” he said. “We just wanted do something to help them.”

A committee has been established to review the survey responses and come up with a plan of action, according to chamber President Yetta Augur.

“The pandemic is affecting different businesses in varied ways,” Augur said. “Restaurants, manufacturers, hairdressers and dentists may not need the same type of help. I hope we can review the survey and produce some creative ideas.”

Neither Sitko nor Augur said they were aware of any businesses in town that had closed permanently as a result of the pandemic. But several new businesses have delayed opening because of uncertainty regarding building construction or renovation, according to Sitko.

“The last thing you want to do is start construction and have it get shut down” because of coronavirus concerns, he said.

Anita Bruscino owns Elegant Touch, a popular gift store on South Main Street. The store has been around for 26 years, but Bruscino said business dried up almost completely during the period between March and the end of June.

“It was off by 80 or 90 percent,” she said. “But we had a very strong July. Right now, I’m happy just to be able to cover my expenses.”

Bruscino said the most important thing the chamber and town officials can do to help small businesses is “to promote more of what is positive and less of what is negative.”

“We know that people whose health is compromised should not be out shopping,” she said. “But for those who aren’t in that condition, people need to be made to feel like its OK to go out and go into stores.”

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