When I woke up this morning, I learned that after much bickering and name-calling, the Senate, House of Representatives and White House had hammered out the details of the $2 trillion stimulus package. All indications were that the bill would soon be signed into law and fast-tracked into economic relief for workers, families, businesses large and small.
After breakfast and a dose of COVID-19 international news, I walked the half-mile to my studio on Market Street at Gates Block for a change of scene.
During my walk through a usually bustling downtown, I crossed paths with a dozen or so people, in various stages of protective dress (or not) – some, like me, were bare-faced. Others wore surgical masks, and one man was covered head to toe – hood, gloves, and a kerchief worn as a face mask with a slit for his eyes. As we passed each other at half the recommended social distance, I heard a friendly hello and responded in kind. Just before that, I’d exchanged smiles with a short gray-haired woman in a sweat suit, who seemed both resigned and in good spirits. Is this what pandemic acceptance looks like? Buses followed their routes, riderless. Traffic was light. I didn’t need to wait for a walk signal to cross Dutton Street.
Passing dark storefronts on Market Street, my heart felt heavy for friends who’ve had to shutter their shops, art galleries, and restaurants. Our small business owners, whose energy, stick-tuitivity, persistence and pride, are the soul of Lowell, immigrant city of possibility, city of reinvention that inspires us to reinvent ourselves.
I had a chance to catch up on-line with Patty DiStefano, owner and operator of Gallery Z, Artist Co-operative and Café at 167 Market Street. Originally opened in 2014, the Gallery expanded in 2016 to accommodate performance space for concerts, acoustic and poetry open mics, and theater performances by Balefire Productions. The annual Jack Kerouac Birthday Celebration is hosted there.
“I shut down a few days before Governor Baker ordered restaurants and bars to close,” Patty said, “and cancelled all events in March on the 12th,” Kerouac’s birthday. “We depend on those events and sales to keep us going,” she said.
Gallery Z’s overhead is steep. “I’m hoping to get relief from the stimulus plan they are trying to pass in the Senate. If it goes through, it will absolutely save my business.”
Tonight, for the sake of all of Lowell’s small business entrepeneurs and their families, for Lowellians, and all Americans, and for a future I expect to be a new normal, I look forward to the Federal stimulus bill to be signed into law, and immediately put into action to provide some measure of relief for those who are suffering economically.
For information about initiatives targeted to support the business community, including ways Lowellians can support their favorite businesses, check out the March 23, 2020 article in The Sun by Danielle McFadden, President of the Chamber of Commerce.
And if Gallery Z is on your short list of favorites, please consider showing your support!