We’ve all heard the call-to-action, “Shop Local,” — and the northern Michigan community has always taken this sentiment to heart. We are a part of a vibrant business community celebrated by locals and visitors alike. As business owners, we depend on your business — and we are unbelievably thankful that you have rolled with the punches since the beginning of this pandemic. You’ve ordered groceries for curbside pickup, carried out meals for your families, and kept smiling under your mask as we styled your hair or handed you a workout towel.

Because of you, we’ve stayed safe to stay open all summer. We’ve welcomed visitors from all over Michigan — and the nation. And even with our communities swelling with guests, we’ve maintained a medium-level risk. This is due to the continued vigilance of and mask-wearing by the majority of our residents and visitors.

The leaves are changing color, and before we know it, winter will be here in northern Michigan. Our bars and restaurants won’t be able to utilize outdoor seating; our retailers won’t be able to open doors and windows and circulate air through tight spaces. And while the weather may change, one thing will stay the same: we depend on your business. We rely on your patronage and want to welcome you into our businesses all winter long. We want to provide you with the goods and services you need so we can provide for our families and keep our friends and neighbors employed.

You — our customers — make taking the risk of being a business owner worth it. Every business owner can remember when we decided to jump in and go out on our own and open our doors for the first time. We knew it wouldn’t be easy and that the reward would be a career of purpose and fulfillment. Owning a business in normal times is risky; operating a business under a pandemic has caused us to take extraordinary risks. You can help us mitigate some of this risk, keep our doors open, and take the pressure off of our committed staff with one simple act — wearing a mask.

We’ve felt the love all summer and can’t express how thankful we are for your loyalty and support. And now, we are asking northern Michigan to continue staying safe to stay open. Will you join us — will you continue supporting us — will you wear a mask and keep us open this winter?

Thank you from your local business community.

Charlie Schwarz is the interim president of the Cadillac Area Chamber of Commerce.