BRISTOL – Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz joined Bristol city leaders and local business owners in speaking about the importance of “shopping small” and “supporting local” this holiday season.
Bysiewicz held a virtual meeting over Zoom where she was joined by Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, Cindy Bombard, president and CEO of the Central CT Chambers of Commerce, Peter Wojtusik, owner of Wojtusik’s Nursery & Christmas Shop, and Eric Verikas, owner of the Dusty Dude Woodworks – a recently established online business which is looking into creating a retail space next year.
As she joined the chat, Bysiewicz admired the Christmas decorations at Wojtusik’s Nursery & Christmas Shop, where Bombard and Wojtusik stood as they joined in the webinar.
“It’s beautiful; I want to be there now,” she said.
Bysiewicz said she was happy to be with her "friends from Bristol” as she spoke about the importance of shopping local.
Half of all Americans own or work for a small business,” she said. “Two thirds of all jobs created are created by small businesses. Sixty two percent of small business owners say that they need to see a consumer spending increase by the end of the year or they were worried that their businesses could close. Our small businesses are hanging on by a thread. Our small business partners make our downtowns the vibrant places that they are. Small business owners support local sports teams and nonprofits and they volunteer in our communities. Sixty seven cents of every dollar spent at a small business stays in the community and is used for things like paying employees and hiring vendors.”
Bysiewicz also wished Zoppo-Sassu well as she neared the end of her quarantine period after coming into contact with someone with a positive covid-19 case. The mayor seemed to be healthy and in good spirits as she too asked people to support their local businesses.
“After being in the house for 14 days I’m excited to get out and do some holiday shopping,” she said. “In Bristol, we have a large foundation of small to medium sized businesses and a healthy mix of the larger chains. You don’t have to leave Bristol to do your Christmas shopping.”
Zoppo-Sassu said many entrepreneurial shop owners are pivoting to having a larger online presence to account for customers’ safety concerns.
“We owe it to them to shop local,” she said. “They pay a large amount of taxes into the grand list which funds vital services like repairing water main breaks. We’re entering water main break season. It’s important that people understand this synergy.”
Bysiewicz said she has been impressed with how “creative” businesses have been as they have “stepped up” to covid-19 safety requirements.
Bombard said the majority of businesses are following all rules and regulations.
“They are requiring masks, they are sanitizing and they are putting tape that tells you where to stand on the floor,” she said. “Many have put signs on the door limiting the number of people that can be inside at a time.”
Bombard then introduced Wojtusik, whom she said is a second generation business owner.
“As a child I shopped in Wojtusik Nursery when his parents owned it,” she said. “Now I bring my grandchildren here. The evolution is really amazing.”
“We’re following all CDC guidelines; customers don’t have to worry when coming to shop here,” Wojtusik said. “Our Christmas shop is full of ornaments, specialty tree-toppers, wreaths and fresh-cut Christmas trees from Connecticut. People started their Christmas shopping last week; everybody needs some cheering up.”
Bombard added Wojtusik’s has a box to drop off letters for Santa Claus.
Verikas said Dusty Dude offers custom woodworking including home décor, kitchen accessories, beer flights, wine cabinets and more. The business was established three months ago after Verikas made wood crafts for friends and family as a hobby for about three years prior.
“We’re mostly online; we do a majority of our business through our website and our Etsy store,” he said. “The crafts we make stand the test of time; they will be around for your grandkids to have it.”
Verikas has already created some products for Café Real and Better Half Brewing locally.
Verikas said he hopes to open a retail space in Bristol, possibly by next fall.
“I hope to expand soon and I will follow all regulations,” he said. “I envision a retail space where people can walk in and out. It would be wonderful; I can’t wait to be there. But with everything going on, we’re a bit more leery about opening a brick and mortar space right now. Our product is something you’d want to touch, hold and feel, which makes it a little more challenging. Hopefully by next fall the pandemic will be behind us by then.”
Bysiewicz closed the meeting by encouraging people to also support local restaurants. Zoppo-Sassu added that next Tuesday is “Giving Tuesday” and encouraged people to donate to local nonprofit organizations as well.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.