Mike House at Resurrection Records

It became clear early on in the pandemic as the state shut down and many of us suddenly found ourselves hunkered down at home — retail businesses, even those deemed “nonessential” in the early days of coronavirus, sure feel essential when you’re trying to work at home, educate your kids at home and entertain the whole family at home.

Spokane County’s retailers have been fighting to recover from those lost weeks in March and April ever since. And while the region’s shoppers were thrilled to return to their favorite bookstores and furniture outlets and clothing shops once they were allowed, all those businesses are functioning under dramatically limited capacity as the county remains in Phase 2 for the foreseeable future.

Like many of the area’s restaurants, Spokane County retailers of all types found themselves forced to get creative. Suddenly, a mom-and-pop hardware store offers home delivery, or a dress shop creates a new live shopping experience done completely online using Facetime. Thankfully, many regional shoppers have responded positively to help local businesses navigate their new challenges.

“2020 has been unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Kerry Halls, manager of Auntie’s Bookstore, tells Atticus and Boo Radley’s co-owner Kris Dinnison in this Retail Guide. “But we’re really lucky to have the relationship with Spokane that we do. The people of Spokane show up for local businesses.”

That’s going to have to continue as we navigate the pandemic. And working together is the inspiration for Back to Business, a local marketing effort developed by the Inlander and a variety of community institutions, including STCU and Washington Trust Bank (see page 5 for more details). Together these partners recognize the importance of Spokane County’s retailers — not just in helping us look good, feel good and create happy homes, but also to the economic well-being of the entire region. These businesses are generally small, family-owned operations, and as they go, so goes the Inland Northwest.

This Back to Business Guide, the fourth in a series, is part of that team effort. Inside you’ll learn more about how retailers are creatively and safely coping in these turbulent times. We’re covering a lot of ground, both geographically and in the kinds of retailers we talked to for this issue. We’ll help you find baking equipment, outfit your home theater, keep your new pandemic pet happy and healthy, and help you get a jump on buying gifts for the coming holidays. We’re also checking in with small business owners about the unique challenges of holiday shopping this year, from limited capacity to slow shipping times, and how you can still find that special something for everyone on your list.

Readers will discover a call to action throughout the guide: We all need to do what we can to ensure these vital businesses continue to thrive. Thankfully, a day out shopping Spokane County’s stores is as fun as it is important.

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