The Pullman Chamber of Commerce executive director said Pullman will lose more businesses because of the COVID-19 pandemic if the community does not support them.

That is why the chamber is collaborating with other business leaders to roll out its “Pullman Needs U” initiative to educate people about the importance of shopping locally to help businesses and the city.

“This is a two-pronged approach for not only helping the businesses survive but increasing those sales tax dollars in our community,” Pullman Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Marie Dymkoski said.

Dymkoski said she has heard from several businesses that September was the worst month for sales since March and April. She said people were likely afraid to go out to shop or eat at local businesses because of the rising COVID-19 cases.

While she has not seen official data for October, several business owners have told her it was only slightly better than September.

The Lumberyard, Daily Grind Coffeehouse, Cafe Moro and Stubblefields were among the businesses that closed this year.

Dymkoski said some of the businesses open now have been less affected by Washington’s COVID-19 restrictions than others. The rest have stayed afloat with the help of loans or grants from the government and other sources, she said.

However, that financial assistance will only last so long.

“Those things are going to run out and if we don’t continue to support them in the way that we normally do, they’re not going to be able to make ends meet,” she said.

She said winter is usually a slow season for Pullman, and the situation could get worse if students do not return to the city in January.

“If the students don’t come back in their numbers that they did this fall, that’s going to be hurtful for the businesses for sure,” she said.

Dymkoski said the “Pullman Needs U” Initiative was first introduced by the chamber in 2008. Back then, it was more of an awareness campaign. This time, however, it is more of a plea to help businesses, she said.

“It’s been kind of put aside, but we’re resurrecting it because it really is the right time that these businesses need our community to support them,” she said.

She said helping businesses means more than buying a cup of coffee once a month. She said it means looking to Pullman stores for all of one’s shopping needs and keeping local dollars in the city.

She said when people take their sales tax dollars elsewhere, they are taking money away from the city services that they rely on such as police, fire and parks services.

She said the chamber is collaborating with other business leaders to roll out the initiative. Dymkoski has been spreading the message through the media that the need to shop local is urgent.

“This isn’t, ‘Yeah, oh in January I’ll start going back to the coffeeshop again,’ ” she said. “No, you need to do it now.”

Anthony Kuipers can be reached at akuipers@dnews.com.

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