SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- Closed signs are a sign of the times in uptown Saint John.

It's so bad, that closed signs on the doors of uptown businesses outnumber pedestrians on the city sidewalks.

And everywhere, the question is the same, said Paulette Hicks, who manages an uptown hotel.

"Will this be a month? Will it be two months?  Will it be 10 months?" Hicks said. "It impacts each business very differently."

Hicks is one of the people behind a full-page advertisement in Monday's newspaper.

It features a photo of an empty street, but with a call for community action.

"We've got great agencies, we got great people doing a lot of work, but they're overwhelmed right now," Hicks said. "But we have people who are working from home at probably not the same capacity as usual that want to help.  Why would we not ignite that?"

The damage to the greater Saint John economy would be no different from what's being inflicted on cities and towns all over the Maritimes. Even though there is no specific end date on the horizon, community leaders here are trying to encourage small business owners not to throw in the towel.

Grand Bay-Westfield Mayor Grace Losier says Rise Up Saint John is about connecting business and providing ordinary citizens with help as they try to weather the COVID-19 crisis.

"There's lots of people suffering some hard times out there, and they're not going to get better in the short term, so we need to be there, to lift them up," Losier said. "We want to hear your ideas and nothing is going to be overlooked. We're going to try to consider everything so we can hopefully get us out of this as much on the good side of the ledger as is possible in every way."

Said Hicks: "It is to create that sense of unity; that we're all in this together."

That sense of unity is designed to help bridge the gap between today's crisis, and a future recovery.