It’s not even Halloween, and stores and restaurants are already displaying Christmas decorations as many small businesses are banking on a strong holiday season this year while companies continue to struggle during the pandemic to stay afloat.

Comptroller Peter Franchot also is pushing for customers to support small businesses during the holiday season. Franchot teamed up with Maryland’s business and credit union leaders on Monday to urge the state’s residents to support local businesses and restaurants during the upcoming holiday season.

“In a normal year we probably would not be starting this early but this is not a normal year,” Franchot said at a virtual news conference in which he helped kick-off the state’s annual Shop Maryland for the Holidays campaign.

Franchot added: “Twenty-twenty is a completely weird year economically because the virus. And we’re trying to recover. But we have a health pandemic that is unfortunately and sadly alive and well. It’s very important that we support local retailers. These small businesses have always been there for us and have always been loyal to the state of Maryland.”

Franchot noted that many of the state’s small businesses are struggling due to the pandemic.

“We have about 170,000 small businesses in the state of Maryland. My experts estimate that about 30,000 have either closed permanently or will close their doors permanently through no fault of their own because of the pandemic. That’s a lot of dreams coming to an end.”

Franchot stressed that small businesses are the backbone of Maryland’s economy.

“I think, frankly, if we shop local for the next two months and keep our money in our community businesses we’re going to be a much healthier state because they are healthy.”

Maryland Retailers Association president Cailey Locklair echoed similar sentiments.

“Your small retailers provide your community with jobs, tax revenue-provide neighborhood stabilization, philanthropy-and so much more. And these small businesses have truly been the ones that have been hit hardest by the pandemic.”

Restaurant Association of Maryland President and CEO Marshall Weston emphasized that the restaurant industry plays a crucial role in the economic well being of every community-especially during the holiday season.

“Restaurants are the backbone of every community. They provide first jobs for teenagers, part-time work for those that are looking to pick up a little extra cash. And during the holidays, more than any other time of year-restaurants are an important part of the fabric of all society.”

Weston said that those who do not yet feel comfortable returning to restaurants can nevertheless show their support by purchasing gift cards for use at a later time.

“We still can’t forget that restaurants are there…That’s what everybody needs to think about. They shouldn’t just dismiss the idea of going to their local restaurant just because it’s not the way it was last year or the year before.”

Kelly O’Brien, who is the owner of Jasper’s and Madrones restaurants, relayed some of the safety precautions that have been taken at her establishments.

“We have hand sanitizing stations all around the restaurant, digital touch-free menus, and touch-less restroom equipment. We’ve installed doors that you can open with the crook of your arm or with your foot so that you don’t have to touch anything.”

Dave Sweiderk, who is president of the State Employees Credit Union (SECU) of Maryland, said the union will offer its 260,000 members a special incentive to patronize local restaurants.

“We’re very excited to announce for the first time in our history that we are going to take our signature rewards credit card and we are going to double the rewards.”

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