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New year will bring reasons to ‘smile again,’ says Hockessin Business Association president

Emily Lytle
Dover Post

A band of small businesses, the Hockessin Business Association began about 12 years ago when a group of owners decided they could benefit by coming together and sharing ideas.

That “stronger together” philosophy couldn’t be more true in 2020.

Hockessin Business Association President Charles Shattuck has owned the store Wild Birds Unlimited with his wife, Kathy, for almost 20 years.

Deeply rooted in the community, Shattuck said he saw firsthand how the pandemic affected the small businesses around him, including his own.

Small business owners Charles and Kathy Shattuck get into the holiday spirit in Hockessin.

“This year was sheer panic for everyone, but it hit small-town businesses severely,” he said. 

Still, even with confusion over loans and the COVID-19 guidelines coming from the state and health officials, as well as financial burdens becoming unbearable for some, Shattuck said he found many moments that left him feeling inspired.

It was especially heartening, he said, to see restaurants step up and provide meals for truckers, police and health care workers. Even as they were hurting financially, the owners decided to serve those on the front line.

Shattuck said he has great respect for his fellow HBA members after all they have overcome this year.

“From laying off employees to implementing daily cleaning procedures to dealing with obstinate customers who refuse to follow the rules, business owners have done it all this year,” he said.

As Hockessin’s small-business owners look toward a new year, Shattuck said it’s important to start talking about the unanswered questions ahead and what a “new ‘normal’” could look like.

It’s hard to know whether people will return to gyms, houses of worship or restaurants in pre-pandemic numbers, or if they will continue to wear masks, or if they will feel comfortable in businesses, he said. 

The Little Emporium, a Middletown store selling home decor and handcrafted gifts, is allowing no more than four people at a time inside because of COVID-19. Small Business Saturday is typically its busiest day of the year.

“Just when we’ve built a level of confidence and safety with our customers we'll have this to deal with,” he said, urging his fellow business owners to set early conversations as a goal for 2021.

Next, the president said the Hockessin Business Association needs to prioritize communication with the community, continuing meetings and networking opportunities – whether that’s over Zoom or in person.

“Hockessin, like many small places in Delaware, lack a central means of finding out what’s going on around town,” he said. “HBA meetings are vital communication outlets for the community.”

Lastly, Shattuck said he is hopeful that the new year will bring more opportunities to revive traditions and bring the community together in events sponsored by the Hockessin Business Association and other groups. 

“I want members of the community to be able to enjoy themselves and smile again,” he said. “For that to happen, we need to work together.”