RED WING — It may seem counterintuitive, a furniture store running a promotion encouraging people to think outside their homes.
Owners of the local Slumberland Furniture said they are grateful to have reopened the showroom after closing for about a month due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they know other businesses — particularly in the restaurant and hospitality industry — continue to struggle.
To help fellow business owners, Craig Novacek recently purchased 50 gift cards at $50 each, or $2,500 in total, from area restaurants. Slumberland is giving them away with purchases of $1,000 or more.
“I just wanted to do something to help out,“ said Craig Novacek, who took ownership of Slumberland with wife Kwin Novacek in January.
The relative newcomers to Red Wing had a chance to get around and sample the local cuisine before the pandemic hit, and Craig Novacek said the family enjoyed the variety of restaurants in town.
He also said he enjoyed going around to purchase gift cards and get a sneak peek of what some businesses have been up to during the downtime.
“One of the coolest things, many of the restaurants I went into were under construction,” he said. “I think once they get opened up again, the people of Red Wing are going to be really pleased.”
Red Wing Brewery owner Scott Kolby said it was a scary time for the business when Gov. Tim Walz in mid-March called for the closure of bars and restaurants for dine-in customers in an effort to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. But some of that fear dissipated when the community stepped up with an outpouring of support.
“People have gone out of their way to make sure that businesses in our community survive these hard times, and businesses in our community have given back as best as they are able,” Kolby said in an email.
Area businesses made headlines in May for helping 2020 high school graduates celebrate with free pizzas, engraved drink tumblers and cakes.
“We have to be in this together,” said Bill Hanisch of Hanisch Bakery. When he got the call from Slumberland about the gift card promotion, he said he was all for it.
Though the pandemic provided an opportunity to do a long-planned remodel of the bakery’s coffee shop, Hanisch said he has never been more nervous about the business in his 13 years as owner.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Minnesota was 8.1% in April, with nearly 250,000 Minnesotans out of work, according to the Department of Employment and Economic Development. It was the highest unemployment rate since 1983.
Minnesota restaurants were allowed to resume outdoor dining Monday, June 1, while limiting capacity to 50 patrons and spacing tables six feet apart. Personal care businesses such as hair salons also were allowed to reopen this week at 25% capacity.
Across the river, a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling May 13 reopened businesses statewide, including bars and restaurants.
There were 1,677 new COVID-19 cases in Minnesota over the weekend, bringing the ongoing total Monday morning to 25,208 confirmed cases with 1,050 deaths, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.