Great Neighbors: How You Can Support the Arts and Local Businesses with Dollars and Actions

IN This Together

This week, Delawareans reading the news learned that food and beverage workers make up about TEN PERCENT of the First State’s workforce, not counting other hospitality workers, like hotel staff. What you may not know is that Delaware’s arts and culture industry generates $150 million in annual economic activity by supporting over 4,000 full-time equivalent jobs and generating $10.5 million in local and state government revenues, according to data released by the Delaware Division of the Arts in 2017.

The HMM-HMM-HMM (we are sick of the word and we aren’t going to say it unless ordering a beer) has already had a devastating economic impact on America’s nonprofit arts and culture sector—financial losses to date are estimated to be $3.2 billion.

Furthermore, half of the food and beverage workers, mostly from Delaware’s 2,000 eating and drinking establishments, have been laid off. 

INWilmington exists to support these businesses, and we know that many of our readers are as devoted to visual, performing and culinary artists, and their supporting casts, as we are. So, we wanted to offer up ideas for how you can get involved in ensuring the people and businesses in our neighborhoods recover.


1. Get takeout. Eat like it’s your last meal, if you can afford it, and tip ridiculously. If you haven’t been following along, Delaware is allowing restaurants with liquor licenses to offer to-go adult beverages. I mean, MARGARITAS TO GO #inWilm ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! We’ve seen people post their daily takeout plans for Monday through Friday—from tacos to pizza to pasta to sushi to burgers—and they are going ALL IN on takeout. Most places are offering online or phone payment and curbside delivery, so that’s several fewer doorknobs and surfaces you’ll encounter in public. Be sure to bookmark our ever-growing list of establishments IN Wilmington (including booze of course, we gotchu).

And when you do so, post about it! Hashtags in use are #restaurantrecovery #industrystrong #supportlocal and #CornerstoneoftheCommunity

(Protip: high-volume takeout is new for many mom and pop eateries. You’ll be stuck at home or work anyway, so take a breath and sip some water if the speed of your order is pushing your hangry button.)

2. Buy a membership. Memberships to cultural sites like Winterthur get you discounts for a year. (And since Point to Point has been cancelled…) Delaware Art Museum memberships mean free admission and discounts at their amazing gift shop. Certain level of donations to arts organizations also get you access to elite gatherings—you might meet your next client there!

3. If you have the means, buy gift cards from INdependently-owned restaurants. Now, maybe you’re a skeptic and worry that the restaurant won’t be in business when it’s time to cash in. One way to alleviate this worry is to look for the restaurants that are diverting gift card purchase dollars into a fund to help their displaced workers. Undoubtedly those will be the restaurants the community will rally around. But, really, just pick your FAVORITE spot and do that. Tonic is donating 50% of all gift card sales to their employees and Kid Shelleen’s is giving all tips from to-go orders straight to their laid-off workers. We’re working on compiling a more extensive list of who has efforts in place, and when we do we’ll link it here.

(Protip: unless you are also financially hurting, this is not the time to cash in gift cards you got for your birthday or wheel and deal with the bonus card you just got with your recent purchase.)

4. If you have an odd job that can be done without breaching the social distancing guidelines, call up a displaced server or an artist and see if they would like the opportunity. Dog walking? Check. (Are your fur babies making you nuts yet? Ours are.) Yard cleanup? Sure. Or if you know of one of these people who has some applicable skills (like my friend who creates beautiful container plants for your front stoop, patio or windowsill), ask them if they’d like a little help finding customers. My plant friend got three new customers from one post I made!

(Protip: offer snacks!)

5. Invest in arts gift cards to venues like The Grand, which can get you to see a favorite artist coming through town next year. And it’s not just brick and mortar venues you can invest in now: find a piano teacher or dance instructor or massage therapist and pay now for sessions you can enjoy in the future. Improv classes? They can help you in business negotiations. Writing for social media? That might be the key to your next job move.

(Protip: if you can avoid asking for refunds from canceled concerts, you’ll be supporting the arts more than you know. If you can donate the price of your tickets for a tax letter, dooooo it.)

6. Buy merch! Check out our list of local musicians, many of whom have music and merch available for purchase—from fun t-shirts to actual vinyl to stickers, not to mention album downloads. BONUS: FRIDAY, MARCH 20th BANDCAMP IS WAIVING ALL REVENUE TO HELP SUPPORT INDEPENDENT ARTISTS! (PS: Grace Vonderkuhn has this sweet tie dye tee just for the day.) Plus, many artists are offering free livestreams, which you might just discover if you click on over to your favorite performer’s social media. Some even have subscriptions on Facebook that can get you access to exclusive content (hello, Aunt Mary Pat!). Don’t forget to tip those livestreamers, you’re saving dough from not buying drinks where you would normally be watching them perform! Which really leads us to our next point…

7. Tip virtually. Generosity is a virtue, and online websites are popping up that allow you to tip. A New Castle County site doesn’t appear to be live yet, but this Rehoboth link gives you an idea of how it works. In the short term: we know you made besties with at least ONE Wilmington bartender, or are at least Facebook friends. Find out their Venmo and shoot them a fin. This morning, we tipped the BrewHaHa employees we’d normally be tipping anyway thru Venmo @BrewCrew2020.

8. Shop online for groceries and essentials. There’s no need to live like this is the apocalypse. If you’d like your purchases to stay local, ACME and ShopRite both have pickup and delivery options available. 


1. Advocate for arts relief. Call your congressperson—or all three (Carper, Coons and Rochester)—and request that your members of Congress include a $4 billion NEA distribution to help offset the losses of the nonprofit arts industry, and expand eligibility through additional federal programs to ensure artists, entrepreneurs, and small businesses in the creative economy can utilize business interruption relief. Visit Americans for the Arts Action Fund or Delaware Arts Alliance for info on how to advocate.

Non-profits are small businesses, and artists ARE small businesses, and should be recognized as such when relief efforts manifest.

2. Advocate for restaurants. According to the National Restaurant Association, there is an impending vote on a federally-funded relief package that includes a cash stimulus, loan grants and no-interest loans to business owners, deferred payment, tax breaks, etc. Find advocacy info here or you can text RECOVERY to 52886. They’ll give you steps for contacting your congresspeople – and once you’re comfortable with the talking points, pick up that phone! You can also follow the Delaware Restaurant Association for local news about relief efforts.

3. Write glowing restaurant or business reviews. You’ve got time on your hands, and, let’s be real, you’re not going to pick up knitting right now. This will pay off for the business in the long-term. And maybe you’ll become an Elite Yelper! (We are joking. Please don’t become that. Google is way better.)

4. Start compiling household donations. Animal rescue organizations are always looking for old towels and blankets. If your kid has graduated, there might be notebooks an arts org can use for finance paperwork. Organize your pantry and let go of the beans you never turned into homemade hummus (check expiration dates), in support of the Food Bank, which is supporting a lot of these displaced workers.

You may have picked up on a theme in our protips: BE PATIENT! The recovery from HMM-HMM-HMM is going to be long and slow, and right now, it’s affecting folks who live paycheck-to-paycheck in a very immediate how-is-our-apartment-full-of-bartenders-going-to-make-rent way.

This is also a time for learning and mentoring. Got a skill you can teach? Call your favorite bartender and ask if they’d like to learn graphic design basics or AdWords or Quickbooks over a video teleconference. Are you good at resumes? Offer your review services to anyone in any industry that’s been displaced. Been asked over and over again if you know how to perform some technical task? That means there’s a need in the community for this skill, and the time you’d usually spend hitting on the bartender could be time used to acquire a skill that will allow you to ball out on the fancy cocktails, and tip big, once the world is back to normal.

Also, don’t assume the answer is no. If you haven’t heard from your favorite business, call them up and ask if they are operating. If you’re worried about public interaction, ask if the business has curbside pick-up or drop-off.

We are all IN this together. Unless you have a moat.