Round Rock, Pflugerville chambers rally behind local businesses, one gift card and takeout meal at a time

John Brotherton, owner of Liberty Barbecue in Round Rock,  has transitioned into takeout, curbside and alleyway pickups as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Brotherton and his team provided more than 600 meals to staff at St. David's Round Rock Medical Center on March 24. (Kelsey Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
John Brotherton, owner of Liberty Barbecue in Round Rock, has transitioned into takeout, curbside and alleyway pickups as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Brotherton and his team provided more than 600 meals to staff at St. David's Round Rock Medical Center on March 24. (Kelsey Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)

John Brotherton, owner of Liberty Barbecue in Round Rock, has transitioned into takeout, curbside and alleyway pickups as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Brotherton and his team provided more than 600 meals to staff at St. David's Round Rock Medical Center on March 24. (Kelsey Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)

On a recent weekday morning, Jason Ball, Round Rock Chamber president and CEO, went to Mi Mundo Coffeehouse & Roastery in downtown Round Rock for his morning coffee. He discovered that Mi Mundo, which had opened as a dine-in coffee shop in February, had repurposed its business model in mere weeks, with an outdoor setup that offered curbside service to its patrons.

Sights like this during the coronavirus pandemic, Ball said, give him hope for the future of Round Rock’s business community.

“It’s been amazing, the amount of outreach I’ve heard from people,” he said. “People have, on purpose, shifted their buying behaviors to take advantage of curbside and delivery services, wherever possible.”

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order March 19 that, due to the growing global health crisis, limited social gatherings and prohibited in-person restaurant and retail services. As a result, small businesses in Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto have had to find innovative ways to keep their businesses afloat, all while serving patrons who have welcomed them into the community.

In interviews with Community Impact Newspaper, Ball and Shontel Mays, Pflugerville Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, spoke to how each of their entities is providing assistance to area businesses. Ball and Mays also discussed how residents can support the businesses that continually serve as the fabric of the greater community.


Leading the charge

For Mays, she said her No. 1 priority in this time is ensuring that area business owners have the tools they need to weather this situation and protect not only their businesses, but also the health and safety of their employees.

“As a chamber, we recognize that [businesses] look at us to lead them,” Mays said. “We understand and accept the weight of that responsibility during this crisis, and we’re committed to giving them the resources that they need and helping them find those innovative and flexible ways to keep their businesses going.”

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Mays had added a new page to the chamber’s website that included both coronavirus resources and information on how community members can support locally.

The coronavirus resources section includes information on the illness provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as up-to-date orders and mandates from both the city, county and state levels. The page also outlines information on the Small Business Association’s disaster loan program, business preparedness checklists and guidelines provided by the U.S. chamber.

Under the Pflugerville chamber’s Support Local section, it provides updated information on local businesses’ operations, including: changes in business hours, service offerings, updated contact information and how to promote these businesses through social media.

The city of Round Rock—in partnership with the Round Rock Chamber, the Greater Round Rock Area Community Foundation and Dell Technologies—launched Round Rock Cares on March 25, a charitable fund to support small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Each of the four entities donated $25,000 for a combined amount of $100,000 available to area businesses to use on lease payments, utility costs, payroll and other business expenses.

“It’s keeping people working longer; it’s keeping businesses’ doors open longer; and if they have had to close because of the Stay Home, Stay Safe order, it’ll get them back up and operating sooner when they reopen,” Ball said.

Alongside financial support from Round Rock Cares, Ball said that small businesses look toward the chamber as a source of guidance when navigating these uncharted areas.

As part of its efforts, Ball said the chamber has established a coronavirus landing page on its website with resources, county mandates and other tools for small businesses to access. Following the announcement that all small businesses in Texas qualify for disaster assistance loans, Ball has designated two staff members to field business owners’ questions and help guide them through the application process.

“There’s so much out there right now that I think people are actually in a spot where they’re trying to sift through a whole lot of information very quickly, and it can be very confusing and create some anxiety,” Ball said. “We’re trying to be a conduit for people to ask questions and get some information in a more timely fashion from our team.”

Community collaborations

While each chamber has invested in efforts to provide resources and tangible services to respective business communities, both Ball and Mays agreed that when it comes to supporting local businesses, no one does it better than the residents who see these businesses as home.

Mays said the day the Pflugerville chamber’s Support Local page went live online, she received an email from a local business—which had decided to temporarily shut down services—asking how to buy gift cards to other community shops.

“That really helped me that day because it made me realize that there are so many people out there who really do want to help and be engaged,” Mays said, adding: “Everybody’s adapting, and that’s the most important takeaway that we can all have. How can we adapt your business to the current times right now, and what can we do to help you adapt to that?”

For Ball, he said the outpouring of community effort to keep these businesses open is a testament to the spirit of Round Rock as a whole. With residents and corporate business owners alike pitching in to assist with serving small businesses, Ball said the city as a whole will come out stronger in the end.

“It’s been amazing to see people that live out here in Round Rock,” Ball said. “And I think that is going to separate communities that are able to bounce back from this quicker—that sense of community and that sense of we are in it together is really what’s going to help Round Rock come back quickly.”
By Kelsey Thompson
Kelsey Thompson is the reporter for Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto, where her work focuses on education, city government and community development. Originally from Upstate New York, Kelsey relocated to Austin after graduating from Syracuse University in May 2019.


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