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Viewpoint: Support Delaware’s small businesses as recovery begins

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By Toni Scarlata
Guest Columnist

In 2019, small and independent craft breweries contributed $430 million to the Delaware state economy. Our state’s breweries make significant contributions to the economy, but due to the pandemic, an astonishing 22% of craft brewers nationwide do not think they will still be operating by the end of 2021. 

The pandemic has created an environment of uncertainty, stress, and undue burden for small businesses, but the resilience we witnessed throughout our industry was remarkable. Brewers found new, innovative ways to connect with their customers and worked to restore some sense of normalcy during a time that was anything but normal. We have come a long way, and though we’re beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel, small business owners need continued support in order to fully recover from the effects of the pandemic. 

Taproom manager Toni Scarlata handing out a fresh pint at Midnight Oil Brewing Company in Newark, Del.. | PHOTO COURTESY OF MIDNIGHT OIL BREWING COMPANY

At Midnight Oil, our local craft brewery in Newark, we were quick to adapt and kept our doors open throughout the pandemic thanks to fresh methods of connecting with customers and supporting the community. 

For the past three years, we’ve catered to the hard-working individual who deserves a better beer at the end of a long shift. But when the pandemic hit last spring, it drove a wedge between us and our customers. Over the last year, we have had to put forth a great deal of effort to remain relevant and keep business booming without relying on brick-and-mortar sales. We knew we needed to get creative, so we turned to social media for help. 

From early last year through June, when we were selling beer to-go only, we were able to keep our customers engaged by transitioning our weekly trivia events online. The turnout was greater than we had expected, with around 80 people tuning in on Facebook Live to support our brand and come together for a fun tradition.  

Because of the success of our trivia events, we decided not to cancel our annual homebrew contest with our neighbors at How Do You Brew, and instead hosted it virtually. Pivoting online to host events turned out to be a great way to keep our community involved in our business, highlight new products and expand our customer base. 

As restrictions slowly lifted, we were able to adapt to each change and power through every challenge, knowing we had the support of our community online. The loyalty and encouragement of our customers combined with the reach of social media has gotten us through our toughest year to date, but we are not out of the woods yet. 

As Delaware’s breweries and businesses look ahead to the post pandemic era, the support of the local community will be integral to our recovery. This National Small Business Month, I encourage Delawareans to seek out and support local businesses. Together, as a community, we can ease the transition back to normalcy stronger than before.

Toni Scarlata is the taproom manager for Midnight Oil Brewing Company.

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