After power outages, Piedmonters and a local artist unite to support Montclair businesses

Artist Shivani Rajan

The recent power outages were difficult for everyone involved. But for the locally-owned small businesses in Montclair Village, the outages were more than that. The news stories speak for themselves: In The East Bay Times, Myhanh Lopes, manager of McCaulou’s clothing store, said that the outage would have a “big hit” on the store’s profits. In an ABC7 news story, Perle restaurant co-owner Rob Lam estimated that the outages cost their little restaurant $40,000, and discussed how the loss of work income was also impacting their employees. The Le Bonbon ice cream shop had to give away their entire stock of ice cream – twice – Once in the first predicted outage and again during the most recent outages. And those are just a few of the small businesses impacted.

But Piedmont residents are making an effort to refocus their spending to help support Montclair businesses affected by the power outages. After receiving an email from a friend asking her to support locally-owned businesses, Piedmont resident Bridget Brennan-Botero and her family have consciously redirected their spending. “This is such a good reminder to support our local shop owners and restaurants,” she says. “This week, instead of turning to the all too convenient virtual shopping and meal apps, we made a point to go to Montclair for needed gifts and dinners as well as our usual grocery, shipping, and dry cleaning runs.”

The time spent in Montclair Village also renewed Brennan-Botero‘s appreciation for both Montclair Village and the local community of business owners. “At A Great Place for Books on La Salle, I was able to purchase a signed copy of Zadie Smith’s new book for a friend’s birthday
gift, and the salesperson helped me find two other thoughtful gifts,” she says. “The bookstore owner, Kathleen, greeted other patrons by name, and encouraged us all to shop at Rocky’s Market on Leimert – they were hit hard by the power outage too. It was wonderful to see and feel ‘the village’ supporting one another.”

Piedmont resident Chris Kwei and his family have also focused on supporting local businesses after the outages, for example, moving a group dinner that had been booked elsewhere to a spot in Montclair that had been hit by the outages. Via email he says, “As business owners ourselves, we understand the importance of a community patronizing locally owned businesses. Many small businesses cannot afford to have business interruption insurance, yet must continue to pay all expenses while they are unable to operate or bring in any revenue – and many also operate on
razor-thin margins and cannot weather even a brief disruption of their business.”

The effort has spread beyond Piedmont. When East Bay artist Shivani Rajan was approached by a group of Piedmont residents to ask if she would be interested in donating a piece of art to help galvanize support for local business owners, she responded immediately, offering to donate an
oil painting.  “I’ve been feeling for so many members of our communities that have suffered such big losses through this,” she says. Rajan focuses on impressionistic paintings of East Bay landscapes, so the pairing is a natural one. The painting is being gifted to the community resident that spends the most with locally-owned businesses through December 5 , the date of Montclair Village’s annual Holiday Stroll event.

Kwei also points out that supporting small businesses also benefits the larger community. “Keep in mind that supporting your locally-owned businesses also benefits the community at large,” he says. “Through employment, taxes, and other contributions made by the businesses to their
communities.” And as Brennan-Botero emphasizes “We have to do our part to show up for our local businesses when they need us, and be repeat customers.”

To be eligible to receive the painting by artist Shivani Rajan, local residents should shop with locally-owned businesses in Montclair, and keep their receipts. The 12”x24” artwork will be gifted to whoever spends the highest amount with Montclair Village’s businesses up until December 5. To participate, please email the total amount spent with locally-owned Montclair businesses (large grocery chains excluded) to the Montclair Village Association: Info@montclairvillage.com. The deadline to email totals is Monday, December 9.

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