Amid the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, local business owners like Small Town Fitness and Grillers and Chillers owner Robert Arthurs have stepped forward to help their neighbors.
On March 22, Arthurs set up a table and a whiteboard that reads “Give what you can! Take what you need!” in front of the building that houses his Greenfield businesses. Arthurs was inspired to set the table up in Greenfield after he saw a similar table near the Washington C.H. Aldi.
”I put some stuff on that table and thought I may as well set something up in Greenfield,” Arthurs said. ”It’s not a new idea. It’s something on a ‘Walking Dead’ spin-off that they did. They left boxes at mile markers that said ‘take what you need; leave what you don’t.’”
Since setting the table up, Arthurs has been one of its major contributors.
“I had chips and all kinds of stuff that was just sitting here, so those were the first things I put on the table — my inventory from the restaurant,” Arthurs said. “When it starts getting low, I put more on it, but hopefully I won’t be the one who has to put everything on there. I’ve probably put about $400 on it since we started.”
Arthurs added that the $400 estimate did not include items from Grillers and Chillers’s inventory.
Arthurs said that when he first set up the table people made negative comments about it on social media.
“When I first did it, there were people who were saying, ‘Someone’s just going to come and take it all.’ Well, we’ll just put more out there,” Arthurs said. “There’s always a concern with things like this that there’s going to be people who will take advantage of it. But you can’t not do something just because people take advantage of it.”
Arthurs said that while he’s seen people stop by the table during the day, he thinks many people stop by at night when they can be more discrete.
“There are a lot of people who depended on the businesses being open, and a lot of kids got food through the school. For some kids, that’s two less meals they’re getting every day. Some kids don’t like showing up for stuff like the school’s food program,” Arthurs said. “The table kind of eliminates some shame because they don’t have to do it in a big group. They don’t have to stand in line. They don’t have to be ashamed of it, even though people who are using it aren’t going to judge them for it. They just don’t want people to know. This way, it can be more casual. People can just grab it and go.”
Arthurs said there are ways to help that don’t involve monetary contributions.
“There are a lot of things that still need to be done. There are people who are still working who might need extra child care. There might be people who need extra things done around the house. Just lend a hand any way you can,” Arthurs said. “Be neighborly. Just do a little bit more of the things you would normally do for your neighbor.”
Arthurs also encouraged community members to support local businesses as much as they can to ensure the businesses are able to reopen in the future.
Like many business owners, Arthurs is also facing hardships of his own. Before local businesses began closing temporarily, he said his two businesses were bringing in around $15,000 in sales revenue each month. Now, he estimates the businesses will bring in about $800 a month.
“We have a few people who are continuing at their regular price, even though they’re not going to use it. I’ve even had some Silver Sneakers members, who don’t pay anything because it’s paid by Medicare, who decided to go ahead and pay the senior fee. It’s really appreciated,” Arthurs said. “I’m not looking at profiting. I’m just trying to make enough to make sure all the bills are paid so it’s here when they can come back.”
At Small Town Fitness, Arthurs froze automatic membership payments since he estimates the gym will be closed for at least another month.
However, he is allowing members the opportunity to check out equipment like dumbbells and kettlebells so they can continue working out during the gym’s temporary closure, though they must continue paying their membership fees and meet certain criteria. Those who borrow equipment are able to keep it until the gym reopens, but they can also return it to check out something new.
While Arthurs waits to reopen shop, he’s using the break as an opportunity to revisit Grillers and Chillers’ menu and hopes to have a grand reopening.
The table is located at 403 Jefferson St. in Greenfield.
To check out gym equipment, reach out to Robert Arthurs on Small Town Fitness’s Facebook page.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.