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Our View: Put down the mouse, get out of the house

Support local businesses. Revisit the shops you haven't entered for a year or two, and explore some new shopping and dining options. These places need customers, and dollars spent locally support local jobs and the local economy.

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Our View
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Restaurants open. Restaurants close. That's the nature of the business. Some don't make it through their first year, while others thrive for decades – then succumb to circumstances largely beyond their control.

That latter description seems to describe the latest downtown Rochester restaurant closure. The Quiznos sandwich shop, located in the subway below the Marriott Hotel, served its final customers this week.

Because Quiznos is a national chain, it's likely that most of those customers didn't realize that the shop was a local, family-owned business. Gerald and Vivian Hallin owned and operated the shop for 17 years, and Gerald said the closure is due, at least in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have no doubt that he's right. The pandemic has affected almost every aspect of American life, especially the ways we work, shop and eat. There's a new normal, and the “end” of the pandemic – if it ever really ends – won't send everyone back into the office for eight hours each day, with an hour to grab lunch at a nearby deli or burger joint.

And, while Americans had embraced online shopping and food ordering long before COVID-19, the pandemic pushed both customers and businesses alike to enter the virtual marketplace in ways that most of us couldn't have imagined three years ago.

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Think about this: The “Cyber Monday” after Thanksgiving 2020, when many businesses were shuttered and people were afraid to leave home, Americans spent $10.8 billion online.

This year, with every store open and no mask mandates, Americans still pointed and clicked their way to a record $11.3 billion in Cyber Monday purchases.

Restaurants and retail stores have had to adapt to survive in this economy. Today's consumers expect up-to-date websites, apps, online ordering, curbside pickup and delivery options. The pandemic (along with rising gas prices) has conditioned us to value convenience, speed and efficiency. If you don't want to leave home, you probably don't have to.

But where's the joy in that – especially at this time of year?

The holiday season, when last we checked, isn't about speed, efficiency and convenience. It's about being greeted by a Salvation Army bell ringer. It's about walking into a store you've never entered before and discovering an absolutely perfect gift for an impossible-to-shop-for sibling. It's about lingering over coffee and scones with an old friend as you watch snow fall. It's about browsing the clearance rack at an actual book store while a Christmas album plays softly on an actual turntable. It's about eating at your favorite restaurant and leaving an absurdly generous tip for an over-worked, exhausted server who still manages to be friendly.

In other words, it's tough to get into the holiday spirit while sitting on your couch and shopping on your phone.

So get out there. Support local businesses. Revisit the shops you haven't entered for a year or two, and explore some of the new shopping and dining options that have popped up while many of us were hunkered down in our bunkers. These places need customers, and dollars spent locally support local jobs and the local economy.

Are you eager to explore Rochester's shopping scene but don't want to drive around aimlessly? Rochester Magazine has a “Great Big Gift Guide” that will point you in the right directions. Another solid guide to local shopping can be found at experiencerochestermn.com .

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And remember, even if you do the bulk of your shopping at Best Buy, Target, Walmart and Scheels, you're still supporting the local economy by walking into those stores, rather than ordering online.

Yes, you might have to wait in a checkout line. If you eat out, your food might take a bit longer to arrive than it would if restaurants were fully staffed – and it likely will cost more than it would have two years ago.

But two years ago, we all were longing for the chance to do something as “normal” as standing in a checkout line or waiting for overpriced appetizers to arrive.

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