And now for the rest of the story

Every week day morning as I walk down Main Street from the Mainstay Cafe with my morning coffee in hand I’m reminded of the story I never got to write. I’m reminded as I walk past the Wooden Nickel on my way to the Independent office.

Painters and other workers have been busy for weeks now sprucing up the outside of the restaurant at the corner of Fifth and Main streets. And from what I understand, there is a lot of work being done inside as well.

At the beginning of the year I noticed a number of downtown entertainment establishments replacing older signage with bright new ones. Fuzzy’s added a new bar and new furniture. The Wooden Nickel was sprucing up the inside and added a pool table.

Business was good, and the bars and restaurants on Main Street were making investments to attract more customers. That makes for a good business story. So I began the process of interviewing the owners and operators. Unfortunately, I had to set that project aside to work on some time-consuming special sections. And just when things started to calm down at the office and I had thoughts of finishing that downtown story, the pandemic hit.

On March 16, Gov. Tim Walz announced his order that all bars and restaurants must close their doors to customers due to the coronavirus. That Monday afternoon, I rushed down Main Street to get some reaction from business owners. I walk into Fuzzy’s and found owner Dan Fosvick sitting at the bar with some of his customers watching the news reports on the ordered shutdown.

“It’s going to put it (his business) in turmoil,” he told me. “I feel bad for my customers.”

Back then we all thought it would just be a couple weeks and life would return back to normal. It’s now the middle of May, and Fuzzy’s, along with the rest of the bars and restaurants in the state are still closed for business.

On Monday I received a text message from Fosvick. It was an invitation to stop by his bar Tuesday night to check out some of his employees working on making face shields in a partnership with Brian Kor of AP Design.

“We will be setting up an assembly line in front of the bar,” the text read.

I showed up Tuesday, and sure enough there were a handful of Fuzzy’s employees along a table, along with Kor and Fosvick.

Kor explained the assembly process.

“They are one-time use face shields,” Kor said. “I got enough material to do 1,000 of them. And that’s all I could get. Once the 1,000 are done, we’re out.”

As it turns out, Kor and Fosvick have been helping each other out during the shutdown to make a little money and help out their employees by taking up a few enterprising projects.

Fosvick’s bar, of course, can’t offer takeouts like restaurants. Meanwhile, Kor’s awards business dried up with the cancellation of athletics and other events.

“With this coronavirus we’ve decided we needed to change the way we do business. So we did our T-shirt campaign. We hit $33,000 raised on that for small businesses. We also did a seniors sign program that parents and grandparents can buy signs since seniors are not getting much recognition right now. We drive all around town and see them all over the place,” Kor said.

“We are sort of adapting to what’s going on out there.”

Adapting and helping each other out is not new for Kor and Fosvick.

“Dan, from Fuzzy’s here, he’s a classmate of mine,” said Kor. “We graduated from high school together and he’s done a fantastic job selling T-shirts to help himself out. For every T-shirt sold, $10 goes back to the business. He did a great job. He just sold a ton of them. So he said, ‘Brian, I’m gonna pay it back a little bit.’ And he’s going to help out putting these (face shields) all together. One classmate helping another,” Kor said.

Fosvick says he’s grateful Kor has given him a lift during a difficult time.

“Like Brian mentioned to you, he put together a program for those T-shirts and made me quite a bit of money on those T-shirts,” Fosvick said. “I said ‘I have employees working for me at night. We will set up a table out at the bar and crank these babies out.”

And crank them out they did. Kor said they will offer the face shields for $5 a piece to anybody that needs them.

With the June 1 date set to hopefully open up bars and restaurants , Fosvick will be turning his full attention in making changes inside the bar to deal with health guidelines.

“I’m sure it will be a minimum 50% capacity. I have been eliminating tables, bar stools, doing whatever it takes to be sanitized and keeping people safe,” Fosvick said. “You got people around alcohol. They are going to want to socialize, congregate, move around. So that’s going to be a big task of keeping those people separated.”

He paused a bit before finishing.

“It’s just a wait and see.”

Waiting is something we all have been doing for the past couple months.

In a few weeks, hopefully a bar owner will be able to open up his doors to customers. And I’ll will be able to finish that story I started too many months ago.

Something tells me there will be many more changes to write about.


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