In December 1914, five months into World War I, English troops heard their German counterparts singing “Silent Night” from across the trenches shortly after midnight on Christmas morning.
And so began an unofficial cease fire.
Troops from each side cautiously laid down their arms and crossed into no man’s land, where, for a single day, they shared cigarettes and plum pudding, sang carols, and came together peacefully and unified around a common purpose.
You might vaguely recall the story from a 2015 online commercial for Sainsbury’s (It should be noted that the irony is not lost, in the context of what follows, that Sainsbury’s is the second largest supermarket chain in the United Kingdom).
Our community needs to come together. Right now.
Overpass or no overpass, mask or no mask, Trump or Biden, Coke or Pepsi, whether the week starts on Sunday or Monday, whether or not Ross and Rachel were on a break, we must agree to put down our phones, keyboards or whatever our weapons of choice might be, and come together, urgently, around a common purpose: Our community.
Many of our small businesses are struggling.
Many of our locally-owned retailers have witnessed a 50% decrease in sales over the last few weeks and some much worse than that over the last several months.
A new round of virus-induced restrictions, which will include reduced occupancies and closures, are on their way, perhaps even in the next few days.
It’s time to decide what we want our community to look like in 6 months. What businesses and stores do we still want to be able to frequent next summer?
However you might feel about what is happening in our world right now, the economic reality of what is happening right here at home is not a hoax.
In 2016, Hastings realized net taxable sales in the month of December of $33.5 million, and it did the same in 2017.
In 2018, that number was $31.1 million, and it rebounded slightly to $31.8 million in 2019.
That gap in spending of approximately $1.5 million should be our modest goal and our pledge to help sustain our local businesses this December.
Frankly, this goal could be the difference between survival and closures for some of our friends and neighbors.
Much like those soldiers meeting face to face on that cold and barren battlefield in 1914, this is personal.
How many of our local businesses can you walk into and ask for the owner by name?
I can think of several. They can be found at on Shop Local: Names and Places on the left rail of this web page.
My list is not exhaustive. If you notice some names that I missed, then you know some of your very own who you can support.
I would encourage you to email email@example.com with more businesses and names, so that they are personal and top of mind for others, as well. The list will be updated frequently by the Tribune.
Small businesses, and our friends who own them, are the backbone of this community, and they are a big part of what makes Hastings special.
An extra $1.5 million in sales this December is only a 5% increase over last year.
Can you spend 5% more locally this year? Can you do 10% to help make up for that Amazon package sitting on your neighbor’s doorstep right now?
In case you were curious how our friends and neighbors at Amazon are weathering the pandemic, their $5.2 billion second quarter profit was their largest ever in their 26-year history.
In the third quarter, they broke that record again with $6.3 billion in profit, up 200% from last year.
Shop at home this December. Amazon will be just fine.
On Dec. 26th, 1914, the soldiers from both sides went back to fighting. You can rest assured that we will do the same.
But for the next 6 months, I’m pleading with you to forget about your favorite 24-hour news station or social media platform, and to focus on the people and businesses in our community that matter most to you.
Spend 10% more if you’re able.
Shop early, shop often or shop whenever you can.
Shop in the north or south side of town, or shop downtown — just please, for the sake of our community, shop in our town.
Dave Rippe of Hastings is the owner of Queen City Development Company.