EMMAUS, Pa. - We've all heard the phrase shop local.

Small business owners say that has never been more important. Just ask Kirsten Hess, the owner of Let's Play Books in Emmaus.

"We were just kicking off our 7th year... our best year yet and COVID hit," Hess said.

Hess' business heavily relies on events. She had to cancel a book festival with 70 authors lined up and furlough her employees.

Online sales and a small business grant has kept her afloat. Now local shops like hers are trying to rebound. Many are taking part in a local initiative called Shop Small 86.

"I'm so thrilled that they're doing it, because I'm one of those people that I can't sit behind a computer and think of ways to stay in business... I'm just trying to stay in business," Hess said.

Shop Small 86 is a joint effort among multiple chambers. On its Facebook page it says small businesses deemed "non-essential" were required to close March 25 through June 19, a total of 86 days.

"Maybe we can get people in the Valley to understand how long 86 days is, that's a lifetime, it's like dog years," Hess said.

The idea is that starting Monday July 6 through September 30-in other words the next 86 days-intentionally spend your money supporting local businesses to show your love and support. While many were labeled "non-essential" they are essential to our local economy.

"If you don't want every corner to be a bank or a fast food restaurant, you have to support us," Hess said.

Hess says she's been humbled by the amount of support she's already received throughout the pandemic and hopes it will continue past the 86 days to 365.

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