In 2018 I took a carpentry class in Chacarita on Saturday mornings. The best thing about carpentry was obviously that I made my own nightstand. The second-best thing was that it was a block away from Roll n’ Lui.
Lui, the owner and namesake of Roll n’ Lui, knows his regulars by name. He has cards for other local businesses tacked up to the wall — guitar classes, yoga lessons, ice cream.
Inside, it was packed. It was the beginning of winter, one of those impossible humid-cold afternoons, and no one could bear to wait outside. The space was small but we all somehow wedged our way in. The young man behind the counter handed everyone who walked in a cup of hot soup to warm up, on the house. He joked with patrons as they placed their orders, and let anyone who was interested sample the hot sauces. It was a new place full of strangers but it felt like being home.
This year things are different. We’re all en casa. Nowhere is crowded — the idea of being in a small space all squished up against other people seems wonderful and terrifying at the same time. Just imagining it makes me want to cry tears of joy and also wash my hands.
Something that’s the same, though, is that these independent businesses and local artists make Buenos Aires magic. They create culture and community, they give us all diverse and rich places to eat and shop and dance and be.
We’re going on three weeks of cuarentena and counting. We’ll all make it through this — we don’t know in what month, or what season. But the day will come when we’ll leave our houses and we’ll hug and we’ll kiss each others’ faces.
When we do, I want the barcito down the street to be able to lift the persiana, I want the ferias to line the streets, I want to be able to brindar with loved ones in our favorite local bar because it was to be able to open its doors. I want to be able to visit all of the places I loved going to just a few weeks ago, I want them to be able to be there when we’re all allowed to go back.
In the meantime, this uncertainty hits independent businesses hard – how many months a bar will need to pay rent and expensas without a single customer?
So how can we support independent businesses through this? If you’re in a position to do so, here are some things you can do to give them some lovin’.
1. Buy an album from your favorite local musician
They can’t play shows right now, but we can still support them. Get on Bandcamp and get your groove on at home. You can scope some of our favorite local music here.
2. Buy from a local artist
Buenos Aires is teeming with amazing creatives who can supply you with a new post-quarantine wardrobe or fill your home with art. Showrooms aren’t open, but online stores are! If there’s an artist you love or something you’ve had an eye on for a while, now’s a great time to show them some love. Down to shop but don’t have a specific artist in mind? Tienda Quorum is working to support visual artists during this time. If you’re looking more for clothes, journals, kitchenware, lingerie, we’ve got some suggestions for you.
3. Grocery shop local
You’ve gotta eat! And let’s be real, mealtime is the Main Event of quarantine. Instead of stockpiling at Carrefour, buy food and meals from local businesses are still operating for takeout or delivery. La La Lista’s resident food guru Kevin Vaughn put together this incredible list of restaurants and almacenes that are still operational, along with their contact information. Contacting them directly can also cut Rappi or Glovo’s out of the middle, so more of your money goes to the business you ordered from.
Picked up a little extra food? You can donate it to people who are struggling to buy groceries or may not have a place to stay during cuarentena, much less cook, via Red Cuarentena Solidaria.
4. Invest in the future
Some bars and coffee shops are offering compras al futuro – scan a QR code, secure yourself a coffee or a cocktail or whatever’s on the menu for when things are back up and running. This is an important way to take some of the pressure off places that aren’t able to offer delivery services at this time. It’s an investment in the restaurant, and in your post-quarantine social life!
5. Share the love
Times are tough, so if you’re not in a position to show support with your pesos, that’s totally okay! You can still help your favorite local artists and independent businesses by sharing and liking their content on social media. This increases their exposure so other people can like, and share, and buy from them, too! (And of course, letting them know you appreciate what they do is always a good thing to do.)
What is your favorite local spot or an independent artist you love? If they haven’t been vocal about how to help, you can also check in, even if it’s just to let them know their community loves them.
To all the independent business owners and artists, thank you. If there’s anything else we can do to support you during this time, please reach out and let us know. We love you.