Throughout the pandemic, local businesses have had it rough. Closings, furloughs, restrictions ... you name it, they have dealt with it over the past two months. But in Marshall businesses have been shown all kinds of love and have also done their part to show the community they appreciate their support in return.

In March, a secret supporter, or group of supporters (we aren’t entirely sure), made sure that businesses knew they were loved by some really elaborate chalk art drawings.

Many locally owned businesses arrived to their stores, prepared to take on a new day only to be welcomed by chalk art on their sidewalks.

No one seems 100 percent certain and though the newspaper staff tried to uncover who the artist was (we have a pretty good idea who may be behind it), one overwhelming feeling was brought to the surface: gratitude.

“It brightens your whole day,” East Texas Office Supplies business owner Stella Alexander said. “It’s terrific that someone thinks that much of us.”

Businesses that were “attacked” with kindness include both Sullivan and Meadowbrook Funeral Homes, East Texas Office Supplies, the downtown Main Street Office, Central Perks, Pietro’s, Joe Pine’s Coffee Co., Cajun Tex and The Marshall News Messenger office.

Each saying was personalized and showcased a theme for the businesses. For example, Pietro’s stated ‘We love Pietro’s’ and featured some pizza and wine glasses.

At Joe Pine’s Coffee Co. small coffee mugs were drawn on the sidewalk. The newspaper received an ‘extra extra read all about it.’

In late March, Marshall businesses provided provided some entertainment for the kiddos by hosting a citywide scavenger hunt.

Students along with their families traversed through Marshall at a safe distance, many from their cars, to spot teddy bears during the hunt. The bears had completely taken over the downtown area ... stopping for a bite to eat at the Blue Frog, galavanting though downtown stores and even stopping to catch up on the latest news at The Marshall News Messenger office.

The idea was brought to life by Marshall ISD’s Jessica Scott who had seen other towns doing similar things to entertain students and took the bear by the fur so to speak to bring it into Marshall.

Blissmoor Valley Ranch and the Weisman jumped on board so their bears could be counted too honestly because it’s fun, Billie Bradbury of Blissmoor Valley Ranch said.

According to Bradbury, her boys and their grandma found 29 bears on their hunting expedition.

The Smith family, including Addie, Ashley and Eddie, were hard at work on during the hunt finding all the bears they could. The family had found 123 bears and big sister, Addie, 9, was marking them down as they traveled the Marshall roads.

As time progressed with the pandemic feeding those on the front line became extremely important to local businesses. Not only did they use the opportunity not only to show their support for first responders, healthcare workers and essential employees, but also to give a boost by utilizing local eateries.

In mid-April, Bear Creek Smoke House made two special deliveries to Christus Good Shepherd in Marshall delivering catered meals to the hospital staff.

Fidelity Communication’s in Marshall paid for the meals, with Bear Creek preparing and delivering them to 120 hospital staff members.

Traci Rogers Event and Catering Coordinator for Bear Creek Smokehouse, said that Alpine Church of Christ also placed a catering order with the store for 190 meals for the staff at Longview Regional Hospital.

“Our owners, Robbie and Tracy Shoults, are members of that church and they were asked because the church really wanted to work to help feed the staff there,” Rogers said.

State Representative Chris Paddie even got into the swing of giving back as he teamed up with local food trucks to provide free meals to those who continue to serve on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Catfish Express and Mega Bites offered the free food to the first 100 healthcare workers and first responders, who stopped by the food trailers at the Grand Plaza Shopping Center, located at 1203 E. Grand Ave.

“I’m super excited to be able to help any way that I can right now; especially for the first responders, giving back when they’re putting their lives on the line,” said Chris Bisset with Mega Bites.

“It’s a struggle to come out every day, not knowing if the next customer is going to be someone carrying the virus, and these people are doing the exact same thing,” said Bisset.

“For us to be able to help those who are helping others, that’s an honor to be able to do that,” he said.

Randy Cox, of Catfish Express, concurred. As a former first responder, Cox said he immediately jumped on the opportunity to be able to offer the free service Saturday.

“I used to be a first responder. That’s why I jumped on it so fast, to help them out,” said Cox. “We’re always looking to help out first responders.”

“We really appreciate everyone’s support during this time, supporting small businesses and we’re glad that we’re able to continue going to be able to serve the community as well,” said Bisset.

The special guests were able to order anything up to $10 from Mega Bites, which included a choice of three burgers or two burgers and fries or a platter of loaded fries and burger.

Catfish Express offered catfish and chicken fried steak dinners. Cox said the group was very appreciative of the token of thanks.

“We really appreciate Representative Paddie doing this for the first responders,” said Cox. “We appreciate all he does for our community.”

Rep. Paddie said he was pleased to provide a hot meal for law enforcement, firefighters, doctors, nurses, and so many more who are working diligently to keep all safe and healthy through these difficult times.

“While this is just a small token of our community’s appreciation, it is one way that we can say thank you for all that you do for us day in and day out,” said Paddie.