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An impassioned letter to Gov. Phil Murphy on behalf of small business owners in southern New Jersey to put trust in them to reopen safely.

Meghan Protasi, whose family owns and operates Pete Smith’s Surf Shops in Cape May and Stone Harbor, details in the letter the hard work and joy that goes into their business every year – and the current challenges they now face after a devastating spring season.

Perhaps the biggest emotional challenge, Protasi says, has been seeing big box stores remain open during the COVID-19 crisis, while most small businesses deemed as non-essential remain shuttered after 10 weeks.

“I understand the sacrifices that we have been making to keep people well, but I can no longer accept the notion that small businesses are incapable of following the same CDC recommendations that have enabled big box stores to remain open throughout the pandemic,” Protasi writes.

“We will follow the guidelines and do everything in our power to protect our staff and customers. We will get this right, not just because our livelihoods depend on it, but because we care about each and every member of our extended family.

“I know that this is a difficult decision, but it is time to let us open. Trust us. We have built our small businesses from hard work and perseverance. We can do hard things.”

Protasi also gathered the signatures of nearly 200 residents and business owners in Cape May County in an accompanying letter urging the governor to reopen businesses by June 1.

Protasi told New Jersey Business Today that she felt compelled to write the letters and gather signatures “because many small business owners in our area have expressed their concerns about being forgotten as they watch other business sectors begin to open.”

“It is very difficult to see our customers walk past our stores and into big box stores to buy the things that they need,” she said. “We know we can offer our staff and customers the same level of confidence and security in our ability to operate safely.”

As of today, Governor Murphy has not set a firm timeline on the reopening of non-essential businesses, amid rising temperatures of small businesses owners who are struggling to survive.

On Tuesday, NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka testified before the Senate Fiscal Recovery Strategist meeting that urgency is needed in establishing guidelines so businesses in the state can reopen safely in the state’s response to COVID-19.

“We know the pain that’s out there,” Siekerka said. “So now when business is going to go in and retool their facility or their business model, every penny that they spend is cherished and precious.

“And they can’t spend it one time for someone to come back like the regulator and say, ‘You did a really good job but, by the way, now the prescriptive guidance is this.’”