EIGHT months ago, Jared Farrow (pictured below) was paying a lease on a store he could not open, helping staff who could not work and wondering what fresh hell the COVID-19 would bring next.
He is among a host of business owners and leaders celebrating the start not only of a new month but of what many believe will be a fantastic Christmas season.
The Bendigo Advertiser is today focusing on the optimism washing through the city after it withstood multiple coronavirus outbreaks, two lockdowns and a recession in stories published both online and in print.
We revisited Mr Farrow's store Silver Tongue Bendigo on Monday to see what has changed since April, when he and partner Ash were renegotiating their lease and reeling from the first lockdown.
Even as the recession arrived, Mr Farrow was looking for the bright side. He had a good landlord and the couple could at least home deliver some of the goods usually sold on the shop floor.
"We've been with our landlord for quite a few years and we want to be with her for a few more years. That's not going to happen if she, or we, go under," he told the Addy in April.
But the store's Mitchell Street doors were locked, the Farrow's stress levels were high and no-one could say with absolute certainty that the Silver Tongue would survive.
These days, Mr Farrow's tattooists are ploughing through a huge backlog of jobs and the business has finally been able to restart piecing people's lips and noses, bolstering the Silver Tongue's most important sources of revenue.
"In the past few weeks business has been up and down but there's definitely been a resurgence," Mr Farrow said.
"People are really backing that push to support and shop local right now. They want to keep local businesses afloat and are a lot more willing to choose small companies over big brands," he said.
The retail trade sector was among the hardest hit when the COVID-19 crisis began and among the slowest to start recovering, data from Bendigo-based economic consultancy REMPLAN suggests.
As late as September, Bendigo's retail output - the sum all all revenue businesses generated - was still contracting even as the city's broader economy began to climb out of a five month slump.
Yet even in the depths of the second lockdown, things were looking up for the Silver Tongue.
Mr Farrow said dealing with it was nowhere near as stressful the second time around thanks to government financial support and a business that had been retooled for just such a moment.
The Farrows were even able to keep paying their landlord during the second lockdown, a deliberate decision they made to support her for her kindness during the first.
Be.Bendigo chief executive Dennis Bice is among leaders lining up to thank Bendigo residents for their hard work during one of the biggest crises to hit the city in its 270 year history.
"Now, more than ever, supporting local businesses is really important and it's a focus we think people will have going into Christmas and the new year," he said.
Leaders across business and government say that while people cannot let their guard down against the virus, they should allow themselves a brief moment of celebration as Bendigo turns to a new, optimistic phase.
Bendigo Tourism Board Chair Finn Vedelsby planned to thank every member of his sector for their focus during a crisis that rocked them the hardest of anyone during his group's AGM, which was to be held last night.
"They have been so flexible. That every person in the industry followed all the rules has contributed to making Bendigo the safest place on earth," he said.
The industry's hard work is paying off, Mr Vedelsby said.
His restaurant The Dispensary itself faced its toughest week financially in the final days of Melbourne's ring of steel before rebounding.
Tourism and hospitality still has a long way to go but getting access to Melbourne guests following the rules with no fuss would help, Mr Vedelsby said.
Melbourne visitors make up 52 per cent of Bendigo's visitor numbers in normal economic times.
Premier Daniel Andrews echoed the thank-yous of business leaders.
"The progress we've made in suppressing this virus belongs to each and every Victorian," he said.
"Thank you to every regional Victorian who has followed the rules to keep one another safe. Thank you to the communities who have come out in droves answering the call to get tested.
"We've all worked hard to achieve these numbers so we can enjoy a COVID normal summer and Christmas."