Your Corona Story
It’s been another week of cancelled plans and life upside down. To find out how Minnesota Trails’ advertisers have been affected by COVID-19, I asked them to tell their story. I’d like to share some of the responses with you.
Bike event cancellations are rolling in from across the state, the latest one being the annual Tour of Minnesota. Just about a month after the June 2020 Tour filled up, ride organizer Bob Lincoln has made the decision to move the event to 2021. In his letter to riders he writes, “Going ahead with the Tour of Minnesota in nine weeks amid the COVID-19 pandemic would have jeopardized the health and safety of you, our riders and staff, our caterers and the people in our host cities”.
Another big bike event, the Great River Energy Mesabi Trail Tour, pulled the plug as well, even though the ride doesn’t take place until August. “A lot of planning goes into an event that draws 700-800 riders and takes over 150 volunteers”, Ardy Nurmi-Wilberg, ride director and Executive Director of Club Mesabi says and adds that given the uncertainty, the tour committee felt it was best to postpone the ride until 2021. In addition her position has been reduced from full time to a very limited part time role, with just a few hours a week. “The good news is, the Mesabi Trail will be open all summer, 135 miles of paved trail offers lots of opportunity for social distancing”, she adds.
Paul Kirkman, owner of Victual says foot traffic to his store has declined dramatically. His shop on Main Street Crosby in the Cuyuna State Recreation Area sells meats, cheeses, liquor and other items and is exempt from the shelter-in-place order. Kirkman has reduced store hours and ramped up his presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. “To keep people interested and informed about our store, we’re being very diligent about our social media”, he says. According to him, sales are holding steady and he’s seeing strong ice cream and liquor sales. “All that said, it’s tough to feel so far removed from much of our regular customer base”.
Peggy Taplah, Manager of the Paynesville Inn and Suites right on the Glacial Lakes Trail says the only customers left in the near-empty hotel are construction workers as all leisure travel has come to a halt.”The hotel is lonelier and eerier than ever before for a day shift”, she says. In order to keep the staff and guests safe, common areas are sanitized on a regular basis, pens have been removed from the front desk and personnel handles credit cards only with gloved hands. While the required shut down of the pool area saves some electricity costs, she aims to further reduce it by unplugging appliances in all unoccupied rooms.
“Guests have been surprisingly gracious and understanding when we glove up at check-in which has been comforting. We certainly don’t enjoy this time either, however, we all come back to homes with possible immune compromised family members. We’re doing our best to keep our own germs to ourselves and protect those that are coming in”, she says.
Right along with the hotels, Destination Marketing Organizations, which are funded by a lodging tax, are seeing their funds dwindle. Pam Borgmann, Director of Visit Sauk Centre says that without that income she will struggle to pay the bills. “The 510 Art Lab is closed, the History Museum is closed, The CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau) is closed and I am working from home with very reduced hours”, she says. But even with cancelled weddings and empty hotel rooms, she adds, “I believe that staying home is the smartest decision for all of us”.
In Stillwater, the long anticipated reopening of the historic lift bridge as a pedestrian and bike facility had to be postponed until late May. Christie Rosckes, Marketing Director of Discover Stillwater, is excited to see it done. In the meantime, her social media focus is on keeping up spirits and promoting local businesses. “We’re doing our best to use nature and art to keep smiles during this time, since most everything else is closed. We’re also helping to promote take-out from select restaurants and online shopping with local stores”, she says.
Jake Capistrant, owner of Jake’s Bikes in Alexandria, has locked his doors to the general public, but he and three employees are still working on bike repairs and taking orders over the phone. Their daily routine has become somewhat more complicated as the normal process of taking a bike in for repairs has been replaced with one that involves setting appointments over the phone, a thorough wipe-down of the bike once received, another one after the repair is completed, and more follow up calls. He says his phone has been ringing off the hook and he hopes his customers who are used to what he calls the “Jake’s Bikes experience” understand that it’s happening for a reason. “We’re trying to stay away from you-but not to be mean”, he said. His focus is on keeping his employees, customers and himself healthy. “I don’t want to take it home to my son who has Type I Diabetes, or have one of my employees who lives with his 96-year old mother, get it from here”, he says. “Now is the time to be safe”.