It may be time to add another word to the taglines promoting Limestone County, its city and its towns: resilient.
It's been little more than a week since Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state public health emergency, with even stricter regulations for restaurants and gatherings ordered Thursday. Yet local businesses continue rolling with it, implementing the changes necessary to keep customers served and employees employed.
For many, this means expanding services to include curbside pickup and home delivery. For some, it means taking credit card payments or phone orders for the first time. For others, it means opening the door to virtual shopping because the store is closed.
For all, it means doing what they can to make sure their stores aren't closed for good.
"Your favorite shops and restaurants are going to be here when this is all over if you help support them now," said Tere Richardson, director of Athens Main Street. "... They've had your back; now it's time to do what you can to have theirs."
Fortunately, it's as simple as continuing to visit your favorite restaurant for lunch. Residents can't eat on the premises, but they can place a to-go order online or over the phone and have it brought to their car when they pull up to the curb. Or, they can buy a gift card to use after the restrictions are lifted.
The same is possible at most retail establishments, too.
"If you know you always go to Pimento's or you always go to Lucia's, buy a gift card so they can have some cash flow now and you can go there later," Richardson said, adding some stores can mail the gift card to your home instead of you driving to the business to pick it up.
At Dub's Burgers on Jefferson Street, closing the door to onsite eating led to opening the door for something new: credit and debit cards. The decades-old Athens restaurant was previously cash only.
"We just had to make some changes," owner Derek Pirtle said. "We're figuring it out, and the public is figuring it out with us."
Pirtle praised the restaurant's loyal customers for continuing to visit and support the burger joint. Hours remain the same for the restaurant, and employees are as busy as ever.
It's a situation that hasn't worked out as well for others. In Ardmore, Mildred's announced it would be closing until further notice. Yolandia Eubanks, director of the Greater Ardmore Chamber of Commerce, said other places, like Cassie's Cafe on First Street, were working with fewer staff members per shift.
Eubanks encouraged residents to reach out and get to know their local businesses on social media. The coronavirus outbreak motivated many to become even more active online. The Rustic Willow announced the launch of its website yesterday on Facebook, allowing customers to browse and buy without leaving their home.
Customers who spot something they like on the store's Facebook page can message them for an invoice and to set up a future pickup date. Free delivery within 15 miles is available for purchases of $100 or more.
"They're being as innovative as possible trying to survive this," Eubanks said of local business owners.
She said she understands the draw major companies can have, but "we have places like L&S that is a family-owned business. They are always supporting our quarterback club, our high school events. We need to be giving back to them locally, too."
"They're the ones that have sponsored your ball teams, allowed your kids to have bake sales outside their shop," she said.
Richardson said even if a resident can't afford to financially support a local business right now, "promote them on your social media. When you're scrolling through and you see a local business post, share that. Leave a good review. Be positive about their store and their merchandise."
"Let them know you're there for them and they haven't been forgotten," Eubanks said.