Like most small business owners in Cayuga County, Tom Hitchcock has been debilitated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The owner of Farmboy Graphics and Crow City Roasters has seen almost no customers since the New York State on PAUSE efforts to enforce social distancing went into effect earlier this month. He already had to let go of his graphic artist, he said Monday.
"We've easily lost tens of thousands of dollars already this year," he said. "In 2008, with the recession, I made it through. But this is gonna make that look like a walk in the park."
In this challenging time, however, Hitchcock's thoughts haven't gone to himself, but to his fellow small business owners in the city. That's why he launched Auburn Strong, a campaign to support local businesses as they all try to make it through the pandemic.
Through the campaign, Hitchcock is selling T-shirts, signs, mugs and decals with the phrase "Auburn Strong." Those who buy the items can select a local small business to direct a portion of the cost. Those businesses get $12 of every $20 T-shirt, $10 of every $20 sign, $8 of every $10 mug and $4 of every $5 decal, Hitchcock said.
As of Monday, the campaign had raised $2,855.
"The response has lifted my spirits," Hitchcock said. "I realize it's not going to be enough to keep someone afloat if they're really hurting, but I'm trying to do what I can do."
Hitchcock said he saw similar campaigns in other communities, so he deflected any credit for the idea. But he knew he wanted to keep his campaign specific to Auburn, where he opened Farmboy Graphics in his basement 19 years ago. It later moved to State Street, where he opened coffee business Crow City Roasters in 2017.
Hitchcock continues to work at Farmboy, and his wife, Renee, helps out there. Without the orders from local schools and event organizers that would otherwise fill his days this time of year, he's "just tinkering around on small odds and ends," he said.
It's hard for Hitchcock to predict what his businesses will look like when they come back, he continued. He expects many owners will raise prices to recoup what they lost, or to prepare for any future catastrophes. And while he's grateful to see something good come out of this catastrophe, he also hopes it makes people realize the importance of supporting local small businesses all year-round.
"I'm fairly certain this is going to change the landscape of small business for awhile," he said. "I don't think people recognize the costs of running a business."
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