Celebrating small business in a big way at the Retail Advocates Town Hall

Small business owners met with members of Congress to tell retail’s story

After an incredibly challenging 2020, NRF wanted to celebrate the resiliency and hard work of small businesses in a big way at the Retail Advocates Town Hall. Held during Small Business Week, the virtual program convened nearly 100 small businesses to hear from leading policymakers and members of the House of Representatives Committee on Small Business.

Co-hosts Margaret Barrow and Danny Reynolds of NRF’s Small Business Retail Council led the program in discussions on the past year’s highs and lows. “This pandemic has shown us that if you want to survive, you have to pivot,” said Barrow, founder of specialty granola retailer It’s NOLA, based in Brooklyn, N.Y. For Barrow, that meant fully leaning into ecommerce and building relationships with other businesses, something she called “critically important.”

Small Businesses

Learn more about NRF's Small Business Retail Council and the insights they provide.

Reynolds, owner of women’s boutique Stephenson’s of Elkhart in Elkhart, Ind., said the pandemic taught him the importance of leaning on and learning from others in order to survive. “There’s strength in numbers from all of us working together,” he said.

Senator Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., kicked off the program by sharing his support for small retailers. “Retailers are everything,” he said. “They are Main Street.” As the ranking member of the Senate subcommittee that handles transportation and infrastructure, Cramer plays a key role in the consideration of an infrastructure package that is much-needed by retailers and offered some optimism. “I think we are headed toward some bipartisanship,” he said.

The two leaders of the House Committee on Small Business, Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y., and Ranking Member Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., also joined the town hall. Velázquez called small businesses the “cornerstones of our communities” and shared updates on small business recovery programs including the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans. She said the House Small Business Committee under her leadership is “focused on oversight of these programs and ensuring they run as Congress intended.”

Luetkemeyer called the PPP program “extremely successful” in helping retailers keep employees on payroll and stay in business during the height of the pandemic, and said he is also closely monitoring policies the committee is considering that could raise taxes on small businesses. “We cannot afford to have tax increases on small businesses that are the economic drivers of this country,” he said.

A bipartisan group of other leading members of the Small Business Committee rounded out the program including Representatives Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Ga., Angie Craig, D-Minn., Pete Stauber, R-Minn. and Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y.

NRF also arranged virtual meeting rooms for members of Congress to connect directly with their constituents. Craig met with members of the Minnesota Retail Association and discussed her work to ensure Main Street businesses have the resources to survive and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Luetkemeyer and Stauber also had the opportunity to connect with their constituents in the virtual meeting room.

The town hall was the first of many such events NRF is hosting in 2021 to empower retailers to share their stories and build relationships with leading lawmakers. Our next event is slated for June with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and will feature discussions on policies that are impacting Black-owned retail businesses and the work of the Caucus.

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