Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Published 9:30 AM EDT May 7, 2020
Whether it is creating bloody mary take-home kits or selling handmade strawberry-rhubarb-scented hand sanitizer, Menomonee Falls downtown business owners are using all their creative ideas to get through the coronavirus pandemic.
On one hand, it might seem logical that these business owners want to just get back to normal. But Business Improvement Director Felicia Reichard sees things differently.
“We do not even want to get back to normal,” she said.
Live Updates: The latest on coronavirus in Wisconsin
Daily Digest: What you need to know about coronavirus in Wisconsin
Share Your Story: We want to talk to doctors, nurses and others affected by coronavirus
Because, she said, business owners are using their most creative ideas, teaming together like never before and working harder than they ever have.
“We are better,” she said.
Reichard said that 77% of downtown businesses have generated income during Gov. Tony Evers’ safer-at-home order.
“(Downtown business owners) are not running the business as normal, and they are making it work,” Reichard said. “They looked outside the box, and it is working.”
Reichard said all the business owners are banding together to create a different downtown feel.
“We love our downtown, Reichard said. “We want everyone to check our downtown first.”
Donating to others, while still struggling
Adam Gegare left his 21-year job in the Department of Corrections in Milwaukee in September to open Slo’ Motion BBQ. He said it has been a challenge to operate a new business and only offer curside pickup — and to try to connect with others.
But he partnered with a Hales Corners business, Mama Bev’s Bakery. Now, every Saturday, he serves butter cakes and barbecue.
“We are trying our best. I built a lot of partnerships,” he said.
Together, Mama Bev’s and Slo’ Motion BBQ teamed up with Chocolate Falls owner Dawn Damico to make 100 free meals a week for health care workers’ families.
“They are tired when they come home, and they may be too tired to cook for their families,” Gegare said.
But he said that is a challenge as he is facing his own business struggles of mastering curbside pickup, limiting hours and changing operations.
“I probably have never worked so hard in my life,” Gegare said.
He said he has been working 12 to 16 hour days, and spent even 24 hours in the kitchen on a recent Saturday.
“We want to help our customers and everyone,” Gegare said.
Another Menomonee Falls downtown business, Cassia Nail Spa, gave out free nail removal kits — to remove artificial nails — outside the spa, which is closed under Evers’ order until May 26.
“The businesses are still giving back and helping each other,” Reichard said. “People are working together and helping each other to make this happen.”
To help create a welcoming vibe, Reichard said the BID introduced a mural project.
Six artists will paint on empty store walls, Reichard said. Two of the artists will be local amateurs, while the others may be well known.
The locations for the murals are revealed during Facebook Live events. So far, murals have been announced at Poppy & Thyme and Nino’s Italian Bakery and Deli.
The next Facebook reveal for the third location will be revealed at noon Thursday, May 7, through the Menomonee Falls Downtown Facebook page.
Reichard said she anticipates the painting will occur in June, and each painter will be allowed a time frame to paint so social distancing guidelines are met.
“We in no way want to have a crowd,” Reichard said. “We want (the mural) to be beautiful that people stumble upon.”
She said she anticipates the murals will be completed by the end of the year.
Creating unique shopping ideas
Many of the downtown businesses are developing creative and unique shopping ideas.
Since inside activity is limited for Bank of Flowers, it took to an online tutorial. Owner Melissa Maas said people can buy their own succulent kits and put them together, following the online instructions.
“First time doing a video, but times are changing,” Maas said.
Things are also changing at Poppy & Thyme, where people can give the store workers a budget with basic requirements, and the employees will put together a gift basket.
“People give us a budget, and we are running around going shopping for them,” said owner Layla Obregon. “Everyone is very touched.”
Reichard also said many businesses are putting together make-and-take kits for cooking, grilling and making desserts. A.J. O’Brady’s Irish Pub & Grill, for example, is offering a to-go bloody mary kit.
Others are offering online yoga classes, and Wondersound Music is offering online music lessons.
“Everyone is really clever and doing things they never would have done before,” said Reichard said. “We are not going down without a fight.”
Cathy Kozlowicz can be reached at 262-361-9132 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @KozlowiczCathy.