If ever there were a summer to support local businesses, this is it.

One year ago, retailers, restaurants, bars, gyms and hair salons were struggling mightily amid the pandemic. There were state rules and medical guidelines to follow that forced many establishments to shut down business as usual. Reopening meant new protocols and limited capacity. If only, those proprietors thought, we could get back to the days of crowded shops and plenty of customers.

Fast forward to today, and that wish has come true. The crowds are indeed coming back. Local residents, tired of a year with little activity, are ready to eat, drink, shop and be merry.

And yet, the cruel hand of fate has dealt businesses another blow: a worker shortage. Just when their customer base finally returns, they don’t have the staff to serve them.

Drive through any business district in the area and you’ll likely see the same thing — help wanted signs everywhere. Last year, restaurants closed dining rooms to prevent the spread of illness, and customers stayed away. This year, many of those same businesses are closing early because they don’t have the help, even though customers are coming back.

While that creates a dilemma for businesses, one they can scarcely afford, following last year, there is an antidote: people and patience.

This is a great year to explore the tri-state area. The reasons are myriad:

For starters, there are really awesome places in the tri-state area, many of which you’ve never actually been to. Have you ever climbed the Platteville “M”? Rode the rapids at Manchester’s Whitewater Park? Explored Apple River Canyon State Park? Those are a quick drive away. While you’re there, find a local restaurant or business and pay it a visit, too.

Even for the things that aren’t new to you, there’s a good chance you haven’t been there since 2019. Your favorite local theater, museum, gallery or concert venue has been hanging on, waiting for the day when enjoying arts and culture wasn’t a luxury. The time has come. Support your local arts.

How about retail therapy? Let’s face it, everyone’s wardrobe needs a little update after 2020. And all shops in town could use your business. Support them. Shop at your hometown stores.

This area has dozens of fantastic restaurants, breweries and wineries. It’s a good time to get out of the kitchen and enjoy someone else’s cooking for a change.

Spending some of your tourism dollars in your hometown will go a long way toward building to recovery. Be patient and understanding: These folks want your business — they are simply understaffed.

If we can get through the pandemic of 2020, we can get through the labor shortage of 2021. Enjoy all the tri-states has to offer this summer and support your local businesses.

Editorials reflect the consensus of the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board.

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