We are experiencing a highly fluid situation that changes hourly. This is a hard time for area families, community groups, and businesses. Small, independent businesses operate on tight margins. A few slow days is alarming but a few slow weeks (or temporary closures) can be devastating. It is up to us to pull together as a community to stay healthy and safe while also keeping our small businesses going. They are the backbone of our community – supporting nonprofits, employing locals, and keeping dollars in our own community.

We need them and they need us.

These are unprecedented times and there is a lot of uncertainty. But one thing is for sure – when this passes, we will arrive together as a unified community. The viability of our locally owned businesses will not change. The day is coming when we will “feast” together downtown. Until then, we will be starving for togetherness and life as normal. 

Together, we will make sure the heart and soul of our community – Downtown Harrisonburg – is here when we come back.

Out of deep care and consideration, local businesses have been taking extra precautions to ensure their establishments are sanitary and healthy places for workers and customers. Many are trying to respond to the customers’ willingness to support them while maintaining social distance. Some have already closed temporarily.

If you want to help your community, particularly local businesses, please support them however you can and consider buying gift cards or using their delivery/pick-up/online stores to help with their cash flow now.

HDR has been working with community members and downtown businesses to determine what is needed and what supports could help keep things as stable as possible. Read on for a few ideas that you can do today and what we have been doing so far.


If you are feeling powerless and want to help, here are some actions you can take now: 

1) Buy gift cards directly from downtown businesses (not HDR’s Downtown Dollars). This helps keep them going today even if you can’t shop or eat there until tomorrow.

2) Take our customer survey to share how you are changing your habits and what businesses can do to make it possible for you to support them during this time.

3) Donate to local nonprofits – especially those that have to cancel fund-raising events. Don’t wait for end-of-year giving. Generally, nonprofits have unpredictable cash flow because we earn money from sponsors, donors, events, merchandise sales, or grants – there aren’t always guarantees on how much money will come in or when.

4) Eat and shop local. Fight the urge to buy from national online retailers. Think about how your life would have normally flowed this week and try to support those same businesses in a slightly different way. Buy gift cards or use takeout options (see our continually updated list here). Many businesses are offering delivery or pickup for online or call-ahead orders for food and merchandise, even ones that don’t normally offer this service!

5) Keep up with downtown businesses – Follow your favorites on facebook, instagram, or twitter. We are continually updating our website with the sanitization and health precaution steps businesses are taking as well as promotions. We will soon add which businesses offer online sales, delivery, convenient pick up, and shipping. If a business notifies us that they are in dire straits or in danger of closing for good, we will let you know so collectively we can focus our spending there.

6) Watch the DNR’s continually updated list for area activities and events that are getting cancelled.

7) Practice generosity and buy a little extra for our more vulnerable neighbors. Join a Facebook group like “Harrisonburg VA Services in Times of Need” or Shenandoah Mutual Aid to connect with individuals and organizations most at risk. Nonprofits need you, too, especially those cancelling their fund-raising events. If and when they are rescheduled, please buy a ticket or consider making donations sooner.

8) Get ready to eat and buy local when this passes. Businesses need you to stay open. When the time comes for us to go out & celebrate, let’s look forward to going big! Let this season of life apart grow love for your city and a generous heart for the businesses that make our community wonderful.


What HDR is doing now:

1 We’re sending frequent updates with information and resources to downtown businesses. And we are surveying them to assess their needs & how we can respond. 

If you are a downtown business/church/organization, email us if you want to be added to our list (hdr@harrisonburgva.gov).  Due to CDC recommendations, our next all business meeting will be postponed – but we are available virtually.

2) We’re surveying customers to gather data to make informed decisions for the good of our community. Click here to take the survey.

3) We’ve created web pages that identify precautions businesses are taking, where you can get delivery/take-out/easy pick up, deals/specials/promotions, and other info for customers of downtown businesses to stay updated.

4) We are postponing the Rocktown Beer & Music festival until October and are reassessing all other upcoming events. We will bring people together when it is safe.

5) We’re monitoring responses from other communities and similar organizations to ours. If there is a great idea out there that we can rip off & duplicate, we are ready! We are also sharing our best practices with our colleagues around the nation.

6) We’re part of a regional coalition focused on supporting businesses. We are meeting weekly with staff from the City and County economic development departments, Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development, Chamber of Commerce, and Shenandoah Valley Partnership so we can all work together. The Shenandoah Valley way.

7) We are reassessing how we work to find the best ways to help the Harrisonburg community. Feel free to send ideas or examples of what other towns are doing.