Gwen Wright

Gwen Wright with The Looking Glass in downtown Osceola. Wright said she’s incredibly grateful for all the support the town gave local businesses over the course of the last year. 

COVID-19 threw a wrench into everyone’s lives, but the impact on small business was devastating.

Or was it? Were there businesses that flourished? Or, maybe, with the new mandates businesses had to do to survive, maybe they’ve seen greater results than expected. 

To get perspective from different fields, The Sun sent out questionnaires on that topic. Responses came from Marsha Hovey at Trollhaugen, Nicole Bartley at The Sleepy Thicket, Sara Haase at Croix-View Farm, Shelby Friendshuh from Wilberg Library, Bob Wolf from Wild River Fitness and Gwen Wright at the Looking Glass.

Changes because of COVID-19

Most replied when asked what changes they had to institute because of COVID-19, hand sanitizer was near the top of the list. 

“We have hand sanitizer everywhere,” Haase said. “While we left mask wearing up to the couples and guests, we did ask that everyone wear a mask through the buffet line as a precaution.”

Stated Wolf: “We shifted to online fitness. This was new for us, but our instructors immediately rallied around the effort and created some wonderful videos. We also promoted “off-line” fitness like walking, outdoor workout tips and fitness at home. We even sponsored a virtual 5K.” 

Friendshuh talked about the drive-thru window, which she said has been a pleasant surprise. 

“The drive-thru has allowed us to continue getting patrons their books and materials, handout take-home activities, print tax forms and more all while maintaining a contactless experience.” she said. “We hope to continue that service in at least some capacity.”  

Added Hovey: “For the first time in 70 years, we had to set a capacity and require reservations. We are a very “old school” family run ski area in the respect that we did not have the online booking options that large corporate ski areas have had for the past few years…We are so thankful to our employees for navigating new systems and new policies as they changed in accordance to the pandemic.” 

 The generosity of people

“I will always be so grateful for the generosity of people,” Friendshuh said, when asked what surprised her during the heights of the pandemic. “The generosity both from those who continued to donate throughout the pandemic and those who simply offered a kind word or message of support has taught us so much about the spirit of the community.” 

Bartley echoed Friendshuh’s thoughts. 

“I wasn’t necessarily surprised, but I was certainly proud of how my fellow business owners in Osceola were able to rally and support one another,” she said. “We are an amazing community and I’m so happy we chose to open our business in Osceola.” 

Wolf said their members sticking through with them was notable. 

 “We’ve always appreciated the enthusiasm of our members and community, and it’s very heartwarming to see the level of excitement they’re bringing back with them,” he said. “It affirms for us how we’re the “one place” fitness and wellness that is so integral to many people’s lives. The dedication and patience of our members through this pandemic has been amazing as they waited for us to reopen.” 

The opportunity to spend time with friends and family struck Hovey. 

“Being able to provide outdoor recreation in a time when people needed it most was so rewarding for us, and we are unbelievably fortunate to continue to do just that for years to come,” she said. 

Back to normal

(Note: These responses were given before the mandates were lifted.)

“I’m looking forward to having people in our store again,” Bartley said. “I wanted to be more than just a store. I wanted to create an inviting experience for people while they shopped. I wanted them to feel like they stepped into something special when walking into my store.”

Added Haase: “People being people again. Talking, hugging, touch ing, mask free. We do see a lot of that at our events. Smiling faces. Not having to make accommodations because of COVID. Common sense really.”    

Stated Friendshuh: “The moment when we can once again safely bring together people from all different parts of our community, see children playing and reading in the library again – that will truly be a reward for all the challenges we have faced this year.” 

Concluded Wright: “Business is back to normal and may actually be busier,” she said. “People are wanting to get out and they are passionate about supporting small business, which in reality should have been the intention all along. I am extremely appreciative for all of the support from our community.” 

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