Put on a mask and support small businesses

Refuge Coffee is located on Auburn Ave and has became the new highlighted coffee spot on campus. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season will look a little different this year. However, this season will still bring light to a tumultuous year with more online shopping than ever before and Zoom holiday parties. As loved ones begin to shop for Christmas presents on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday is a day shoppers should all but overlook. 

Small Business Saturday became a national holiday nine years ago, and since then has cultivated a culture of supporting local businesses. This year continues to be a gut punch to small businesses; with COVID numbers on the rise, the amount of uncertainty since March remains. As holiday shoppers will do the bulk of their shopping online, small business owners may continue to see a decline in sales.

With 64% or less of small businesses having websites, consumers should find COVID-friendly ways to support them. 

Refuge Coffee is a small non-profit business that has been in Clarkston for almost 10 years. In early 2020, it opened a location on Georgia State’s campus. Refuge employs immigrants and refugees and cultivates their mission of “welcome” through coffee. 

“Our mission is to provide living-wage full-time jobs, job training and mentorship to resettled refugees in Atlanta’s backyard,” founder Kitti Murray said. “We work with our trainees to tell a more beautiful refugee story, opening people’s eyes to the vibrancy and resilience of most refugees.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Refuge Coffee recognized its vulnerable position as a small business and adjusted to the new normal. When dine-in was not an option, they opened a drive-thru. When catering came to a standstill, the recognizable Refuge Coffee Truck did neighborhood visits.

“Small businesses are at the heart of our communities. They celebrate the assets of a community: its people. They not only create jobs. They create a way for people to be known and cared for in real time,” Murray said.

According to an Alignable poll, 34% of 7,726 small business owners struggled to pay rent in October. Of those owners, 31% believed that consumer confidence in the fight against COVID is key to this predicament. Even though Refuge Coffee adjusted in innovative ways, the Sweet Auburn location and catering business took an 80% hit in revenue.

Small businesses are essential to the economy and our communities. At the height of the pandemic, we found ourselves with no other option but to scroll for hours online. As businesses like Refuge Coffee continue to stay open and safe for customers, it is time for us to give back to those who are always there for our community.

Small Business Saturday falls on Nov. 28 this year. In Clarkston, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Refuge will be hosting a Shop Refuge event. All donated clothing items will be $2 or less. There will also be a Winter Market on Dec. 5. Local vendors will be selling their one-of-a-kind art, jewelry and clothes. This event is the opportunity to ditch mass-produced items and start your Christmas shopping off right.

If you find yourself able, support Refuge in Clarkston or in between classes right on campus. Small businesses are more than just businesses; they’re a part of the community.