The following article was written by Annalie Haralson – a recipient of a 2021 Superior Chamber of Commerce scholarship.  Candidates were asked to respond to the question: Discuss a business trend that has been impacted or accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. How should a local economy cope with this change, and how can a chamber of commerce assist?


In a state as beautiful as Colorado, it is no surprise that the people who live here love to shop and dine outside. However, not all businesses include outdoor spaces, but until the COVID-19 pandemic struck, this did not present an issue to local economies. Throughout this year, restrictions have made it impossible to shop locally indoors, forcing people to make purchases online through large businesses disconnected from local communities.

The cost for small businesses to set up delivery systems and maintain an online presence is often too great. Therefore, to thrive amid ever-changing guidelines, many local stores have creatively used existing or created new outdoor spaces for customers to shop safely. Although this trend developed out of pandemic-driven needs, the long-term implications of making outdoor spaces a staple of local businesses are significant.

During the pandemic, outdoor spaces have allowed local businesses to attract customers uncomfortable with shopping indoors, bringing back more of their usual profits. In the food and beverage industry, outdoor seating helps overcome many dangers that eating indoors poses to restaurant staff and patrons. During these uncertain times, inviting outdoor spaces are symbolic of safety and opportunity to build community. Therefore, it is in the best interest of local economies to allocate space for outdoor business activities as the town continues to expand its commercial infrastructure. In the long term, these outdoor spaces will continuously attract neighborhood families and those looking to engage in their town community, fostering long-term loyalty between local businesses and town citizens, thereby boosting the local economy.

However, as the pandemic continues to take a toll on local businesses, it is essential that local economies creatively design ways for businesses lacking official outdoor spaces to take some of their commerce outside. This could include sectioning off sidewalks or the front of parking lots in front of stores with planter boxes or attractive temporary railings and covering the area with tents and umbrellas to protect against weather. These enclosed spaces could be used for monitored product displays, seating, item pickup, and customer service, or other business needs. The cost of setting up these spaces would not be substantial, although still challenging for struggling local businesses to fund. Therefore support from a local chamber of commerce, whether through grants or fundraising events, to create these spaces and make them pleasant for customers would be incredibly valuable. Furthermore, marketing made by the chamber of commerce highlighting the new safe outdoor areas to town citizens would be invaluable in bringing back customers to local businesses.

Throughout this past year, it has become increasingly popular to create outdoor spaces to enjoy the goods and services of local businesses. Therefore, supporting the shops that still lack these spaces could significantly revive the health of local economies. However, investing in these spaces is not only applicable to the pandemic era but as outdoor spaces are attractive to eco-conscious and community-minded citizens, creating them now will reap long-term economic benefits for our towns.


Annalie Haralson graduates from Monarch High School this year and will attend The University of Colorado to study Engineering.