A04 #1. Stores Closed.JPG

Boarded up — Shop after shop is boarded up in Downtown DeLand Sept. 3, as Hurricane Dorian made its uncertain way toward West Volusia.

“I’m just one hurricane away from not having a business,” we heard one Downtown DeLand business owner say.

This was after a week of closure due to Dorian, followed by a day of cancellations by people who could no longer afford the service, because they, too, had missed a week’s income.

That’s rough.

We asked another business owner if he had closed his shop during the storm.

Not once, he said, adding, “I can’t afford to make no money.”

For three days this business owner stayed open, despite the uncertainty, he had daily revenues of $350, $90 and $75, he said.

You don’t have to be very good at math to use this testimony to calculate how close to the bone many locally owned small businesses operate. Or, to figure what a deep blow it was to these shops to close their doors, only to realize later that there were potential customers strolling the streets in beautiful weather, and they could have safely stayed open.

Further, these closures came on the heels of several days of intense hurricane preparation, when many West Volusia residents were scrambling to buy plywood, tarps, food and other supplies, instead of the services and merchandise offered by most locally owned stores.

The economic blow is, without a doubt, preferable to the damage, financial strain and heartache a direct hit from the storm could have caused.

But the financial concerns are still worthy of our consideration. And the effects reach far beyond Downtown DeLand, whose collection of small shops may be most familiar to us. Every town in West Volusia has locally owned retailers, restaurants and service providers who give their towns character and help create a sense of community.

Not long ago in this space, we urged West Volusia residents — before they hit “buy” at an online shopping site — to consider giving a local store a chance.

Hurricane Dorian has made that message even more urgent.

When we spend our hard-earned dollars, we vote for the kind of community we want to live in: a place with a bland collection of chain stores that are the same as the stores in every other place, or a vibrant community whose creativity is expressed in locally owned small businesses that contribute to the community fabric and help our town stand out.

DeLand is fortunate to have our MainStreet DeLand Association to help attract visitors to the area, who help keep our locally owned shops going strong. But we locals can help, too, and we should — if we want to continue to enjoy the contributions these small businesses make.