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Supporting small businesses through the pandemic

The last 2 years of the pandemic have been a struggle for many small businesses, but an idea born out of an emergency continues to help business owners in our area.

LACKAWANNA COUNTY, Pa. — Erin McLaughlin has her regular customers at Armetta's Restaurant & Pizzeria in Chinchilla.

But she's always getting new customers too, and recently many of them have been coming from one place in particular.

"Yeah, people come in all the time and say that it's because of that group that they came out to even support us," said Erin McLaughlin from Armetta's.

That Facebook group is called NEPA Strong, and it's 13,000 members strong.

It's a place for small business owners to connect with the community - sharing their offerings, participating in giveaways, and filling needs.

Kristen Miller-Hahn of Jermyn started the group in March of 2020, right after non-essential businesses were forced to shut their doors.

She said, "By trade, I'm a clinical social worker at a private practice in Clarks Green, and I have a communications background. So when this all started, the therapist side of me and the communication side of me thought this was a really good outlet to give back."

It started out of necessity. 

But almost two years later, "The group is growing in astronomical numbers. Every day, new members join, so every day you get a new person that can see your business," added Miller-Hahn.

Even after Armetta's reopened the doors to its dining room, take-out is still a more popular option than it was before the pandemic, and social media is a game-changer for that.

"Just honestly getting word the word of mouth out. It's just so big for small businesses and restaurants. You are nothing without word of mouth," added McLaughlin.

The businesses that may not have survived without this group would likely agree.

"She brought a whole new fan base in, and people that didn't know other places existed all because it was one platform for everyone," said McLaughlin.

13,000 and counting, proving there's power in numbers, and we're stronger, together.

Click here to check out the Facebook group NEPA Strong.

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