BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
Normally, our focus on the southern part of Chicago Avenue would include a couple of interesting dining or brunch experiences, or perhaps a quirky little retail shop or two. In the past we have highlighted massage therapists, bike races, parks and their activities, and coffee hangouts. In any case, you would be enticed to get out there and explore, experience and mingle with your neighbors. But of course, you can’t do that right now, since for about all of April, and possibly quite a bit of May, the entire state will be on stay-at-home orders. Now, what you may want to know is—what is even open, even if on restricted hours? Where can I get curbside pickup food if I get tired of my own cooking? Who delivers and do I qualify for delivery or other special help? If I miss my church, my exercise class, my friends—what do I do to connect? So that’s the kind of information we’re trying to bring you in this strange and historic time. Since you may have to venture farther to meet your needs, we have included an expanded area—north to Lake Street, west and south into Edina and Southwest Minneapolis.
Restaurants, bars and coffee shops are in a strange position. None of them can continue with their usual business model, which is the opposite of social distancing, but because they provide food and drink (and the state is now leaning toward including alcoholic drink as something people ought not to have to give up due to COVID-19), they have a path to remaining in business if they have the means to support it and the capacity to make that huge pivot without stumbling and falling. So the restaurant scene is a varied one. Turtle Bread is open in all locations for both delivery and curbside pickup, but Pizza Biga, which they own, is closed. Beloved coffee shop Sovereign Grounds is open its usual hours but only for takeout (they have great food as well as a diverse selection of coffee). Town Hall Tap is closed, but it’s the only one in the Town Hall chain that is not open some hours for pickup or delivery; Town Hall Station in Edina (4500 Valley View Road) is probably the closest. Bagu Sushi and Thai is available through Bite Squad at slightly reduced hours—5 to 8:30 p.m. During the outbreak, R. A. MacSammy’s is open Tuesday to Friday 4 to 7 p.m. and weekends noon to 7 p.m. You can order directly at https://my-site-102770-108845.square.site/ and pick up curbside during those hours, or you can order for delivery through either Uber Eats or Door Dash. Earlier we reported that Modern Times Cafe at 3200 Chicago was closed, and only selling hot sauce and merch online. They have slightly expanded that. Now they have a handful of crucial food items and more sauces, and are open Wednesday and Friday 10 a.m. to noon to pick up the orders. To order, simply email email@example.com and say when you’re picking up. See page 5 for available items and pricing.
Grocery stores are definitely a vital business, so most of them from large to small have stayed open, some with reduced hours, some with added services to effect social distancing.
Kowalski’s has remained open in all locations, including Chicago Avenue. If you have to shop in person (and are not currently ill!), here are Kowalski’s present policies (condensed from their website):
• suggesting wearing a mask while in the store;
• installed temporary plexiglass separators at the checkouts to specially protect our cashiers, carryouts and customers;
• using every other checkout lane to ensure social distancing;
• supplying our front-end employees with protective equipment (i.e. gloves);
• cleaning and sanitizing surfaces that are touched regularly
• extending wage and overtime increases to all hourly employees until May 2;
• ensuring employees are getting adequate days of rest and are scheduled for manageable shifts;
• temporarily suspended the use of reusable bags; suspended the 5-cent bag fee until further notice;
• not limiting the number of customers that may be in the store at a time. However, if at any point store management feels a store is too crowded, they may ask customers to wait outside until the level of shoppers returns to a more reasonable level.
Kowalski’s also offers online ordering and delivery through a service called Shipt.
The Seward Co-op Friendship store is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. They have very recently instituted online ordering (without delivery) for curbside pickup. For now, it is only available to those over 60 or in other special needs categories (immunocompromised, health care workers). For more information as well as a lot more about what Seward Co-op is doing, see their member newsletter (and consider subscribing if you shop there a lot) at mailchi.mp/seward/covid-19-april-9-update-2612372.
Walgreens at 43rd and Chicago is open normal hours. I have made one visit there since the pandemic started. They were low on many items, and not really practicing social distancing very well. It might be a good time to consider signing up for online delivery of pharmacy needs.
Quite a few local businesses are teaming up with nonprofits to help serve the disadvantaged or to help in the direct fight against the virus, or just initiating their own volunteer efforts. Some notable efforts in our community include the Town Hall chain, Seward Co-op and Kowalski’s.
The staff of Town Hall Tap is furloughed during the closure, but pooled tips from staff at the other four locations give 80 percent to the furloughed employees (so tip very generously if you patronize them)! Also, Town Hall Station has delivered massive orders of tacos to Fairview Southdale for free meals for the health care workers there.
Seward Co-op is using their roundup for the latter half of April in a new Staff Solidarity Fund, to help staff with special needs or to provide pay for staff who are off work but have exhausted the usual PTO. They have also managed to not (so far) furlough or lay off any staff from Creamery Cafe, which is closed, by reassigning them to other roles for the duration.
Kowalski’s is one of several local businesses supporting The Boys and Girls Club of the Twin Cities in its food insecurity mitigation program, which forms the main part of their COVID-19 response while recreation centers and schools are closed. BGCTC launched a “Family Meal Kits” program, which consists of giving registered families a box of healthy food ingredients, enough to feed a family of four. The implementation of the program follows a significant financial contribution by the Minnesota Vikings and the Wilf family. “Specifically, dollars will go directly toward meal and education services to more than 1,000 youth during this crisis,” according to a letter from the Wilfs. In addition to Kowalski’s Markets, the program is also supported by Cub Foods, Jerry and Diane Carlson, Minnesota Timberwolves Head Coach Ryan Saunders and wife Hayley, MATTERbox Snack Packs, Pratt Industries & Minnesota Corrugated Box, Inc., Papa John’s Pizza and Grandma’s Bakery. The nearest location where the program is operating is 701 E. 39th St. According to the director for South Minneapolis, Mark Graves, the BGCTC has given away about 300 boxes since the program started (at the time of writing, more now I’m sure). You can help too, by simply donating to the Boys and Girls Clubs via their website: boysandgirls.org. For more information, call the BGCTC center nearest you.
If you feel the need for some spiritual uplift, it’s good news. Almost every church, mosque, synagogue, temple or other faith-based organization I have looked into is providing at least one weekly service by online streaming or meeting services such as Zoom or GoToMeeting. Two large Christian churches in the vicinity of Chicago Avenue include Calvary Lutheran at 39th and Chicago and the Urban Refuge at 5501 Chicago Ave S. (My own church—Walker Community UMC—is doing Zoom services and they are awesome.) For Calvary’s signup information and more, see http://clchurch.org/news/136/94/Worship-Updates.html. They have a 10 a.m. service, and also a virtual coffee hour (separate access) after the service. For Urban Refuge, with services Sunday at 10:15 a.m., start at https://www.theurbanrefuge.com/covid19-updates. Other spiritual and material support services are offered online at this time. Urban Refuge’s page has two buttons—I Need Help and I Want to Help. Pretty straightforward.
Finally, if exercise is what calms your mind, the YWCA is offering free video exercise classes in some of their most popular categories. For more information or to sign up go to https://www.ywcampls.org/fitness-membership/group-fitness/ywca-on-demand/.