BEDFORD, Va (WFXR) — “Azul” in Bedford has become the latest local business to announce it’s closing its doors after years in the community. It’s a pattern we’ve been seeing across our region as multiple small businesses and restaurants have recently announced they wouldn’t be able to survive this holiday season.

The restaurant tells WFXR the things that really hurt them were labor shortages, food costs, and the lingering effects of the Covid 19 pandemic. Luckily, there are resources in the community that can help other small businesses stay afloat

The Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance is one of these resources. Chief economic development officer Megan Lucas says it is a good place to start if you’re trying to run a business.

“Small businesses, all businesses, are critical to the growth of our region,” said Lucas.

Lucas says her biggest recommendation for small businesses is to focus on creating a positive customer service experience.

“When a consumer is going to go out and spend their money, they’re going to go to the location that has made customer retention a priority,” Lucas said.

However, in many cases– like the closing of “Azul”– one major concern is a lack of workers. Tim Saunders from Virginia Careers Works says this has been particularly challenging for restaurants.

“Right now, everybody is in competition for workers, and that means restaurants are having to compete with larger industries that they normally wouldn’t have had to compete with workers for,” said Saunders.

Saunders encourages businesses to broaden their pool of potential employees– he says Virginia Career Works offers training services for those who may not have the necessary experience.

“There’s some really eager workers there who want to come and work for some of our local employers, and we’re helping those people every day,” Saunders said.

Saunders added that in addition to training services– Virginia Career Works offers opportunities for funding, advertising, and general guidance for small business owners.

Both Lucas and Saunders say creativity is a big part of keeping a small business open.

“A lot of employers are having to be creative right now,” said Saunders.

“And the key to being creative is reaching out to the resources that are available,” Lucas said.

In addition, both Lucas and Saunders mentioned was reaching out to your local small business development center– saying they often offer business advising and educational services free of charge, to help keep your small business doors open.