Guest commentary: We can help ease the toll the pandemic is taking on our small-business community

Many businesses in La Jolla have closed and many others are struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we are all aware, COVID-19 has become one the biggest struggles of our lives. For me, a young and quite naive 15-year-old, the pandemic has proved to be the strangest and most challenging obstacle I have faced.

Even though we are all impacted as individuals, there is a feeling of despair leaking throughout our community since this pandemic began.

I moved to La Jolla when I was 3 years old, and from the beginning it was clear to me that La Jolla is a very special community. From going to the beach to driving through The Village, you can tell there is a common love for friendliness, small businesses and the ocean breeze.

However, since the pandemic hit, it has become clear to me, as well as many others, that La Jolla has lost its signature touch. The drives through The Village feel much less fulfilling, seeing that almost half the small businesses have closed or are struggling significantly. It is also very sad to see that, out of fear of being caught in an unsafe situation, there are fewer happy shoppers walking up and down the normally bustling streets. All of these things take a toll on our small community and what makes La Jolla so beautifully unique.

The issue of small businesses’ struggles has been going on since the start of the pandemic and has taken a huge toll. I have seen firsthand what it’s like to own a small business and be so passionate about what you do but not have the consumers to sustain your livelihood. My mom owns a local staging business (Elizabeth J. Home Enhancement) that, like so many other small businesses, is trying to hold itself together through the storm of COVID-19. I have seen her work day and night to try to keep her business alive while also trying to be a mother to two children dealing with the task of online school.

One of the most scary yet defining moments of the pandemic for me so far was when my favorite sandwich shop closed. Cruisers Gourmet Subs was beloved among me and many of my classmates. I remember the feeling I got when I drove past and saw it was closing. It was gut-wrenching knowing that all the memories I had made there were over. And I had a feeling of sadness for the lovely owners who had invested so much time and love into their business.

Since then, I have tried my best to help support local businesses any way I can. I believe some people underestimate the power of local businesses. They define the community as a whole. Without them, La Jolla isn’t La Jolla.

Throughout the pandemic, I have seen many businesses go under and be replaced by other small businesses that experience the same struggle.

However, we have the power to help. Next time you order from a restaurant, try to do it locally. Next time you need new
clothes, try the amazing stores in our very own town. Even the littlest things you do to support local businesses are felt by the entire community. So let’s help local businesses not only survive this holiday season but thrive as well!

During these crazy times, it is understandable that many folks are remaining safe in their homes and doing their shopping online. And many local restaurants are doing safe pickup and delivery through Postmates, DoorDash, Uber Eats, etc.

If you do go out to visit local businesses in person, please always wear a mask and take some hand sanitizer.

We are getting through this tough time together as the strong, loving community we are. I hope you will find the love for your community to support our lovely businesses. Our quaint town of La Jolla thanks you.

Capri Lewis is a student at La Jolla Country Day School who previously attended La Jolla High School.