Instagram account promotes local businesses that are suffering from coronavirus shutdowns

Workers at the Great American Donut Shop take orders and fill takeout boxes on March 16, 2020.

Julianna Lowe

Bowling Green’s local gems like Spencer’s Coffee, Q Coffee Emporium and Great American Donut Shop closed to in-person traffic per Gov. Andy Beshear’s order.  One Instagram account is looking to help.

Amid the crisis of managing to-go orders, online ordering and operating purely through drive-thrus, Matt Pannell upped the operation of his Instagram account, Buy Local Bowling Green. With over 8,000 followers, @buylocalbg has created a presence at the forefront of a community presence to keep businesses alive under coronavirus shutdowns. 

“Griffs Deli offers online ordering for takeout!” the March 17 post wrote, explaining how Griffs Deli will adapt to the restaurant closings. The post explained that the restaurant is accomodating its guests by offering online ordering, accompanied by a picture of one of the deli’s sandwiches. This post and much more flooded through the account’s feed on Tuesday after restaurants and bars closed due to Beshear’s orders. 

Created in October 2010, Pannell’s bi-annual magazine with an emphasis on an online presence serves to continuously promote local businesses. Pannell has his own background in TV news and radio broadcasting, allowing him to run Buy Local Bowling Green on his own.

“With my background in the late 1990s in TV news and working in radio from about 1999 to 2006, I had a background in traditional advertising and producing content,” Pannell said. “I created a small magazine that we produce bi-annually and decided to start using websites and social media to promote local business.”

As of now, Pannell plans to release the first edition of 2020’s magazine in May and the second edition two weeks before Black Friday in November. 

However, Pannell said that the operation of the account has not changed due to the recent closures caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. The only accommodation that Pannell has made is his messaging process.

“Honestly, it hasn’t changed how we operate, just how we message,” Pannell said. “We spend a lot more time on the phone talking with our clients and even non-clients about how we can promote as well as save them money.”

Pannell understands that many of Bowling Green’s businesses will be impacted by Beshear’s orders to close public arenas. To prepare for this, he has found ways to communicate with businesses about how they are operating under the current restrictions.

“Obviously many of our high-volume audience clients will be impacted,” Pannell said. “Talking with some of them, we are looking into how they can operate in a virtual world to provide their services.”

During the time of changing dynamics and hours to local businesses, Buy Local Bowling Green has provided a source for the community to learn about all the adaptations made by their favorite locations in Bowling Green. 

“Another [restaurant] we need to make sure we are shopping with Boba Lounge!” the Instagram account wrote on March 18. The post included an update of Boba Lounge & Cafe’s new local delivery and curbside pickup, as well as images of their token menu items. 

The demand from local businesses to receive coverage by Buy Local Bowling Green is normally constant according to Pannell, but the coronavirus-ordered social distancing and shutdown has brought the coverage to extremes. 

“It’s extreme now,” Pannell said. “Business owners are nervous, and they have seen the power of our community.”

With hopes that businesses will be able to reopen soon, Pannell says that nothing about his account will change in terms of coverage or communication.

“We will be here,” Pannell said. “We are here in storms and economic downturn. People will rely on us to help local businesses.”

Pannell extends thanks to his readers for allowing his account to flourish and bring attention to Bowling Green’s most beloved businesses.  

Features reporter Julianna Lowe can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow Julianna on social media at @juliannalowe.