The Importance of Umbrella Square
We recently received an email about Umbrella Square. It was more of a challenge actually, by someone who is a supporter of Downtown Saline, but who had questions about how this park-like space supports our brick and mortar businesses in the way they are currently forced to function. We thought we might share our response, in order to provide an explanation how the Square currently functions and why it is so vital to the safety, enjoyment and recovery of Downtown Saline.
The original email is copied and pasted here —
“I have heard over and over from friends or even nearby family, how THE LIMITED TIME the restaurants are open (No lunch hours and no Sunday or Monday )… and the displeasure of shutting a street for the city without offering many hours, is why they don’t come here. They say how being unsure when it’s open, they just opt to meet friends elsewhere…”
And our Saline Main Street response is pasted below. FYI, some names of the businesses have been removed and replaced with generic language in brackets to protect their identity —
“Restaurants are struggling with staffing. They are all way understaffed [due to pressures beyond their control — and not only here, but everywhere state and nationwide]. And because they are, they can’t be open for more shifts. [A couple of our restaurants] used to be open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week. But, they have had to continually cut back [which in turn has pushed them to have to reduce their open hours].
Last year this was not the same issue.
Taking measures to try and create economic repair is not something that has a clear path. Many states and cities are trying things like outdoor service areas to address the pains of the pandemic. Many people are still leary about eating inside.
Each and every customer is critical to businesses staying open. The thing is, [many of our downtown brick and mortar businesses] are severely in debt. If they quit now, they are devastatingly in arrears and will be brutally in the red going forward. (Also, it costs thousands of dollars to close a business.) If they keep trying to stay open and recover, maybe something will give — there is hope they can beat this.
But, we all need to give up a little for the community. I am a small biz advocate so that is my focus / my job. Others focus on healthcare or housing or schools. Truth is, we are all working hard in every corner of our lives to survive this pandemic and to keep our economy afloat. Sustainability is going to require hard work, unclear decisions and compromise for a long time to come. From each and every single one of us.”
Please help save our downtown businesses. Be kind and patient with those kitchen staff and servers and employees who have stayed working throughout — filling each and every shift with only the bare minimum to keep their doors open. They are tired and feeling spent and really need some hope. Rushing to get things out, getting double and triple seated, running in the heat, going weeks with barely a day off — all to meet our every whim and desire. “Do you have everything you need? How is everything? Sure I can get you that. Yes I can come down on the price.”
Sometimes, we forget how much we drive these folks to make an extra trip each time they come to the table or that they are just trying to make a living.
Let’s stay the course to recover. Let’s keep Umbrella Square open as long as possible and enjoy this park-like space whether we are dining, shopping or playing. This gathering place has more than proven its worth — both for small business recovery and for family and friends to meet / play / enjoy the outdoors. Without it, Downtown Saline has no park.
“What defines the character of a city is its public space, not its private space. What defines the value of the private assets of the space are not the assets by themselves but the common assets. The value of the public good affects the value of the private good. We need to show every day that public spaces are an asset to a city.”
— Fred Kent, President, Project for Public Spaces.