By Laura P. Doster

Executive Director
Chamber of Hickory Nut Gorge

In our last “chat,” we were early into the COVID19 Pandemic.  Many things were unknown and we were all united in “just getting through, staying well, and keeping our loved ones well.”  In our chat we asked everyone to consider not retreating, but to reflect and rally using technology.  Let me just say, the rally stories are simply remarkable.  For instance. . .

  • Zoom conference calls became the day-to-day norm for EVERYONE – not only in keeping businesses connected, but friends and families, lunch & dinner groups, cocktail hours, prayer and worship, business after hours, and counseling sessions to name a few.  
  • Tweets, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, & YouTube became our entertainment – families creating videos, musicians forming symphonies,  comedians making us laugh, communities openly applauding our front line medical employees and first responders, chefs holding cooking classes, hairstylists showing us how to cut and color our hair, real life reality shows, photograhers sharing the outdoors.
  • Who knew Nascar & Formula E would find a new way to keep its drivers engaged (and its fans) with e-racing!  A whole new perspective, not to mention much safer.
  • People working remotely figured out you work harder because there is a huge decrease in day-to-day interruptions.
  • Students realized going to school is not such an awful thing and can’t wait to return.
  • Cooking meals at home became a competition between family members and friends.
  • Cleaning and organizing became a favorite pastime.
  • Drive by parades for graduations, proms, and special occasions (birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, weddings, etc.).

On a local level, our Chamber witnessed first hand –

  • The Gorge Community and Non-Profit Partners contributed over $10,000 for the Chamber to buy bags of groceries for our displaced Gorge employees impacted by COVID19.  The giving was so tremendous, we were able to extend the offer to ALL employees of the Gorge and surrounding areas.  To date we have distributed nearly 145 bags of groceries.
  • Local residents and surrounding area residents bought over $4,000 in gift cards to our local businesses, which is bringing them back into our merchants now that we have re-opened.
  • Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development partnered with Facebook – awarded thousands of dollars of grant money to many of our Lake Lure businesses for economic relief.
  • HNG Outreach Food Pantry received enough contributions to offer several days of free bags of groceries.
  • Dogwood Health Trust and Mountain BizWorks were very successful in helping several of our local businesses obtain their Payroll Protection Plan funds.
  • A large motorcycle club out of Greenvile, reached out to the Chimney Rock Village Community Development Association to let them know, “We just want to come and spend a little time there, spend a little money, and support your businesses during this time of recovery.”  They brought approximately 200 people on May 31st, respected the social distancing, broke up into groups of under 10, and many wore masks.  It was a huge boost to the merchants, with some having a record-breaking day in sales.  

Look forward to witnessing all the efforts as we continue to rally, re-open and recover!  Please keep the stories and ideas coming.