Albert Lea businesses persevere through pandemic |

Albert Lea businesses persevere through pandemic

Rachel Mills
Updated: March 25, 2021 08:21 AM
Created: March 23, 2021 06:35 PM

(ABC 6 News) - The pandemic has challenged everyone, but it was especially hard for businesses - who found themselves on the frontline every day. 

"We've got a lot of great support you know. We've got a lot of regulars really helping us out. With the addition of take-out and delivery, we've been doing well and we've been doing well in-house," Brent Erickson, co-owner of 112 on Broadway, said. 

Over a year ago, the restaurant 112 on Broadway in downtown Albert Lea was thriving. Their catering business was having great success serving at events throughout the community, but without large gatherings, that service was cut. 

"What we really need now is to get back to our off-site business now that we're coming back into that time frame. So we'll be kicking a lot better once we get back into doing our weddings and food catering for grad parties. But it has been nice to have people back in for sure," Erickson said.  

Erickson also said they wouldn't have made it without support from the community. 

"They've been supporting us even when we weren't able to let them in. They'd still support us by coming and getting food from us, but now they're starting to come back, and it's great to have that local support," Erickson said.  

It wasn't just customer support keeping the restaurant afloat.

"We did get what everyone got this last round from the state and we did get some small help from the PPP program but the majority of what kept us going was the community, so we'll always be indebted for that," Erickson said.  

Erickson said it will be a long time before they make up what they lost last year, but they would be growing much faster without the restrictions on capacity. 

"Not all the rules seem to be completely handed out fairly to everybody all the time you know. But I get it. Its a once in a lifetime pandemic and I can agree or disagree with it. We just kept doing what we were doing to get through," Erickson said. 

While 112 on Broadway is a restaurant with limits on capacity, just a few doors down at Whimzy the toy store, the rules are a little bit different. 

"We were closed for that period of time, but they've ramped up pretty rapidly to let us open up 100%. We've had great cooperation from the community for making because everybody does want to take care of everybody. That's really what it's about," Tami Staker, the owner of Whimzy, said. 

Tami also said she was sad for the few months the doors were closed.

"When you hear a little kid go 'oh mommy look!' that's the best. It's the best. That and the giggles, and so you didn't hear that because it was just really really quiet," Staker said. 

During that time, Staker made a change that many other businesses were making at the time. 

"We had to do what everybody else did, and I hate to use the word but 'pivot.' we had to pivot," Staker said.

Staker moved the store online offering pickup and delivery services for the toys. 

"We get like three or four orders a week and none of its local. We kind of thought it would be kind of a drive-by, local thing, and people would stop curbside and pick it up. And we really haven't seen much of that at all. That might be like 0.5 percent of our online sales, the rest of them are coming from all over the United States. It has been really fun," Staker said.

Whimzy also had some special visitors to boost morale last year. 

"We had personal appointments for Santa, down in the basement. We created like a winter wonderland down there and only families could come down there. Max of five people. Santa did ZOOM calls and he ZOOMed with kids in Ohio and that kind of thing. And that was all free. We just wanted to offer that kind of service to bring some kind of normal back," Staker said. 

Much like Erickson, Staker said she has nothing but gratitude for her community. 

"I think Albert Lea is really known for that. Just people helping other people. And the same thing resides within the businesses," Staker said. 

Both Erickson and Staker said their businesses aren't going anywhere any time soon, and any employees that left, have since come back. 

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