Many businesses start to reopen
NEW ULM — With Gov. Tim Walz beginning to lift some restrictions, New Ulm businesses are starting to look to the future.
Multiple New Ulm businesses were able to reopen on Monday, May 18. Restaurants and bars will be able to serve customers outside as of June 1.
In New Ulm, the city is developing a plan to close downtown Minnesota Street to allow restaurants and bars to use the street to serve patrons. Minnesota Street would be closed from 1st North to Center Street and 2nd North to 3rd North on the weekends of June 5 and June 12. This is subject to city council approval.
Local business owners are excited about the chance to reopen.
Chamber of Commerce President Michael Looft said he thinks there will be a fair number of businesses opening. The bars with minimal food sales might wait. Lamplighter is opening its back patio.
Green Mill plans to open its patio on June 1. Plaza Garibaldi will also open its patio on June 1, and the restaurant is working on a second patio in the parking lot to accommodate more customers. This extension is dependent on the council’s decision on June 2. If approved Plaza Garibaldi will be able to extend service on June 3.
Retail business owners have already seen a strong response from reopening. Bailey Creek Boutique owner Sandy Reinke said the business was great since reopening on May 18. The customers were very encouraging. She said as many customers were from out of town as were local.
“Everyone is sure to follow the rules and is very accommodating,” she said.
Bailey Creek is taking care to regularly sanitize the shop. Hand sanitizers and face masks are available at the front entrance.
Business has been good, but there has been a shift in what is purchased.
“Twenty-two pairs of jeans were sold in the first three days,” she said. “That is unusual,” Reinke said.
She suspects there was a backlog of items customers wanted to purchase for the last few months. There has also been a delay in spring inventory. Dresses are not selling as fast because weddings and proms were canceled. Casual wear is selling well because many are working from home.
Reinke is excited to see additional Minnesota Street businesses open. She said her business goes hand in hand with the salon next door. If the salon is doing well, her business is doing well.
“When people feel beautiful they want to put on a new outfit,” she said.
She added that other businesses that were forced to close during this time were supportive of her store and she wants to return the favor.
Gallery 512 noticed a similar trend. Jessica Fischer and Danielle Fischer Marti reopened their store on May 18 and found leisurewear was selling well. But recently gifts for graduation and back to work clothes were another strong seller.
“We have pretty good customers,” Jessica said. “They have been naturally social distancing.”
“We all missed each other,” Danielle said.
The flow of customers has been steady and is similar to pre-pandemic numbers. Danielle said some customers are still doing curbside purchasing because they prefer the convenience.
Lola’s food truck has also helped business. People standing in line at the truck can see right into Gallery 512. Customers have been calling in orders while waiting in line.
Jessica and Dannielle are excited for the city to reopen. They view the plan for closing sections of Minnesota Street as a benefit.
“It is exciting for the city to try something new,” Dannielle said.
Sozial is one of the businesses that could technically open June 1, but will need city council action to use parking spaces on Minnesota Street.
Co-owner Jeff Overby said he has enough room on the street front to serve the maximum of 50 patrons. Sozial will be the only business on the block using the street for service.
Sozial has been using a curbside pickup to keep customers fed. Overby estimated on a Friday the restaurant received 75 to 100 orders. He feels fortunate to have a strong customer base and is looking forward to reopening for outside dining.
“People need it,” he said. “They need to get out. This has been for three months.”
Overby was uncertain what to expect for turnout. Restaurants are still restricted to 50 people at a time and must use a reservation system. Will customers have a table for an hour or will they stay three hours if the weather is nice?
Overby understood the need for the reservation system. It controls the number and helps with contact tracing.
“It is a good plan in theory but in execution, it will be a challenge,” he said.
“In our experience, the town is understanding,” he added. “We’re lucky to have this clientele. Lockdown was so long I think they will all take [the inconvenience] in stride.”
Overby is hopeful this experience will lead to a new way of thinking about downtown. Opening up the street will be a benefit to the town and create a vibrant and lively community, he hopes.