NEW BUFFALO — The New Buffalo Business Association (NBBA) on Friday, March 20, launched a weekly initiative aimed at helping its members keep in touch and up to date while maintaining social distancing during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
NBBA Board of Directors President Blagica Bottigliero hosted a March 20 Business & Community Check-In via Facebook Live chat session, the beginning of a weekly hour-long program slated to start at noon on Fridays (for more www.facebook.com/newbuffalo/).
“We’re doing these communications and virtual chats to understand what can we do as the NBBA to help?” she said.
Although plans to have the entire NBBA Board participate via a video link didn’t work out for the March 20 session for technical reasons, Bottigliero said future sessions will hopefully include that feature.
Other members of the board and of NBBA leadership including Abby Voss, Dawn Fadden, Traci Lauricella, Audrey Tuszynski, Toni Morris and Katie Maroney did participate, as did other people from the community.
Those watching live on March 20 could send in comments and notifications, which were visible on the chat screen.
Bottigliero said NBBA officials are in contact with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to understand what can be done to bring resources to this area.
Early in the session the question of how COVID-19 is affecting local vacation rentals was raised.
John Natsis noted that the recently formed Harbor Country Vacation Rental Association had a phone meeting on March 19, adding “We are all seeing a number of cancelations, now and in the future. We are taking it one day at a time, but trying to do our best to bring people to the area in 2020 to all of your stores, restaurants, shops etc.”
Bottigliero said the NBBA does not yet know about possible cancellations or postponements involving the events the organization sponsors.
She welcomed The Pokagon Fund Executive Director Dan Petersen to the live chat, noting the Fund “serves the entire area all the way over to our friends in Indiana.”
Colleen Ryan Neubauer urged families to take advantage of the meals being distributed by the local schools.
Bottigliero gave a shout-out to the New Buffalo Area Schools and its teachers for “the amazing job they did when we received the word ... that schools were closing.”
She mentioned the local restaurants doing carry-out, drive-up and deliveries, noting she saw that the drive-through at New Buffalo Bill’s was “cranking” and observed that Timothy’s “had a line out the door the other day.” She later responded to a post stating that the previous evening had been Bentwood Tavern sushi night.
Bottigliero asked if any business owners have been looking into grants offered by the state and what they are doing for funding, and what the impact of job losses is in the community.
She also asked how people’s older neighbors are doing and whether some sort of a food aid effort by the NBBA Board would be helpful, adding that Michiana Homewatch was providing grocery delivery to those in need.
Voss posted the following website “for our service industry friends looking for aid”: www.usbgfoundation.org.
Among the other topics covered were: Maroney posted that both Equilibrium gyms are closed and missed time credits are being offered to members: Breanna Workman posted that Villa Nova Pizzeria in New Buffalo is open daily for curbside pick-up and delivery; the State Farm Tom Rossman agency was open for business as of March 20 and “our phones will always be open and available.”; Erin Watson posted that both Oaks Eatery and Jackie’s Cafe are doing carry-out (it was later noted that the tamales from Oaks Eatery are easily frozen and re-heated) and Granor Farm has a farm stand on Fridays; a message from New Buffalo City Clerk Amy Fidler was forwarded as follows: “we have information regarding COVID-19 on our website under City News”; Voss posted that Beer Church has drive-through beverages and food; various online yoga classes including those by local instructor Elizabeth Nuti were recommended; a second home owner said they were headed to Michigan next week and asked if the New Buffalo Beach was open (as of March 20 it was); Watson posted that there is no entrance fee at Warren Dunes State Park as of now (the park, located between Sawyer and Bridgman, was deemed “a lifesaver for our family” by one poster.
When asked if they wanted to make the noon on Friday live chat a weekly event, all of those responding indicated yes.