Navigating the coronavirus crisis: Some restaurants offer take-out service, grocer providing curbside pickups

By Sarah CR Clark and Scott Carlson

From churches, schools and families to restaurants, shops, businesses and community organizations; the COVID-19 virus is disrupting a vast array of daily activities.

Many health experts and government leaders predict this “new normal” with closings, social distancing and other tactics to slow the spread of the virus will last at least through the end of March and, in the worst-case scenario, far out into the summer.  

This much we know: Dozens of local businesses are devising creative ways to hang on during the state’s mandatory shutdowns or limitations that are aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. 

The following is a rundown of how the coronavirus is affecting various sectors in the Bugle’s circulation area and how some businesses are endeavoring to keep going:

Restaurants

     The COVID-19 virus is causing havoc for local businesses, especially neighborhood restaurants. Governor Walz’s March 16 executive order temporarily closed restaurants, bars and other dine-in establishments to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. This has forced many of our local restaurants to close—either partially or completely—lay off employees and consider creative options to continue as take-out and delivery businesses.

     Elizabeth Tinucci, owner of Colossal Café, emailed neighbors on Tuesday, March 17, “We will close at 2 p.m. today and will remain completely closed until you hear from us again.”

     In a phone conversation, Tinucci said she hopes to offer some pre-order pop-ups beginning sometime in the next couple weeks. At these pop-ups, customers could pre-order from a selection of potpies and family dinners, to pick up and enjoy at home.

      “Everything is changing so quickly,” Tinucci noted, a sentiment echoed by many other business people. 

     Sandra Weise, owner of The Finnish Bistro, will keep her café open for take-out and local deliveries made via brand new scooters. Weise plans to offer a shortened menu, which will include family-style meals.

      “We’re still going to have almond kringlers,” she laughed. “People have actually called us to ask.” Weise was in the process of laying off many employees at the time of this interview.

     Nico’s Tacos co-owner Jenna Victoria also has cut staff and is offering take-out food options. Victoria hopes to keep her fulltime employees employed.  In a bid to keep their faithful patrons, the restaurant has added an option to its menu: a taco box to-go that includes 10 tacos, all the toppings, rice and beans and chips with guacamole for $35.

    “Thank you to so many people who have expressed their support,” Victoria said. “I really appreciate this neighborhood and what people have done already.”

     Karta Thai plans to remain open during their normal hours for both take-out and delivery orders. Mim’s Café has decided to close until April 5.

     All of the restaurant and café owners mentioned gift card purchasing as another way that neighbors can support them during this time of social distancing. Many offer gift cards online and some are currently offering deals. The revenue of from gift cards can immediately help employers pay employees, rent and other expenses, even if customers don’t use their cards right away.

Other businesses

Tom Spreigl, owner of Speedy Market, plans to “stay open as long as possible and as long as products last.” He is focusing on cleaning the store regularly and thoroughly, to meet the CDC guidelines, and “to keep everyone healthy and employed.”  However, store hours may be limited in the near future, he said.

Meanwhile, Spreigl is working to keep the store as well stocked as usual, although some product shortages may be inevitable.

 “As long as it’s safe, please come in,” Spreigl said. “And take care of each other. If you see we only have two packs of toilet paper left, just take one.”

For customers who are concerned about exposure to COVID-19, Speedy Market is taking phone orders and offering curbside pickups.

Spreigl reflected, “I’ve been working in this business for over 40 years and I’ve never seen this kind of chaos. I feel confident that we’ll be able to get through this and supply the neighborhood. I’m grateful to have such a good staff who is stepping up and I’m grateful for this neighborhood.”

Boreal, an apparel and novelty shop, is also ready and willing to take phone orders and to work with customers via photographs to make sure gifts and other items are perfectly chosen. Co-owners Peggy Merrill and Janet Haugan said they have no plans to close their shop.

“We’re here for the community and we’re going to stay open as long as people come in through the door.” They will shorten hours by closing earlier each day. They are expecting a product refresher shipment in the near future.

“Think of us for care package supplies and Easter needs. We would like to help wherever possible,” Merrill said.

Families

     Close to home, families are suddenly finding themselves together—in this historically chaotic moment—with a lot of quality time. Schools, churches, museums and gyms are closed. Many employers are encouraging employees to work from home.

     Amelia Corl, mother of two young sons and strategy officer at GHR Foundation, has found her son’s preschool closed, as well as her and her husband’s offices. She and her husband have made offices for themselves in their basement.

Corl said, “It feels important to take one day at a time since everything is unfolding so quickly. While we have resources to work from home and the privilege of (at least for now) continued childcare, we all miss being in community with our colleagues and classmates. It all still feels so new, like maybe its just a bad storm. But there are potentially many weeks of this ahead, and we need to commit to compassion and calm towards ourselves and others.”

     The Cakir Snyder family, similarly, is trying to isolate as much as possible, particularly since Metin Cakir recently returned home from a trip in northern California. Samantha Snyder is a professor at Macalester College and while she’s technically on an extended spring break, her three classes will go online once the session resumes. For the moment though, Snyder is spending most of her time caring for her two daughters.

“For now, I am trying to keep the kids on some kind of schedule, make sure we get outside twice a day, and only turn to screens as a last resort,” Snyder said. “It’s exhausting work. It has been a challenge for my patience both towards my family and myself.”

However, Snyder is grateful that she and her husband will both be able to work from home until business and schools return to normal.

“I know that we have a ton of privilege that a lot of other families don’t” she continued, “I can’t imagine trying to do this while also needing to figure out childcare and going out into the world to work, worried about sharing my family’s germs or picking others up outside.”

Government, community organizations

       Meanwhile, community organizations, public and government offices are also hunkering down.

        Co-Creatz, a community office-sharing and networking collaborative, said it closed its office to walk-in traffic from the public on Tuesday, March 17.

         The St. Anthony Park District 12 Community Council has cancelled all upcoming events and said it will be conducting its board and committee meetings online during through at least April.

          At Lauderdale, Administrator Heather Butkowski said the City Council will, for the time being, hold its meetings remotely as the council chambers do not allow for proper social distancing. More information on how to access the meetings will be out in the next few days as CTV helps us the city set that up, she said.            And in Falcon Heights, all rentals of city facilities have been cancelled until further notice.

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