Last Thursday, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce conducted an aggressive push for Gov. Tim Walz to completely reopen Minnesota's economy in an attempt to save dying businesses around the state.
The effort took place on social media with videos from over 60 business owners around the state. The goal was to convince Walz to lift regulations by June 19, and allow businesses to start gaining back the profits lost from COVID-19. Three of the businesses chimed in from Alexandria.
"It's not just that the businesses decided to take part. We needed to tell our story locally," Tara Bitzan, Executive Director of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, said. "We joined together with businesses from around Minnesota to share how this has impacted their community. We chose three members of our chamber that are hurting."
Business owners went on Facebook live or prerecorded a video sharing their struggles publicly in an effort to convince lawmakers that action is needed. Chad Meyer of Fat Daddy's Bar and Grill and Garden Center said the time they've been closed has been difficult for his family and staff.
"As a business owner, you are looked to for answers and leadership," Meyer said in his video. "It was something that was very hard to do because we don't have those answers.”
Meyer went on to talk about Minnesota's health guidelines and how the restaurant and bowling business's first priority is to keep the customers safe. Meyer is a third-generation owner of his business and said that passing it down to a fourth might not be possible if he's not allowed to open his doors soon.
Corey Thompson is the owner of the Nordic Warriors Boxing Academy in Alexandria and he's only able to open his gym at 25% capacity as of now. Thompson opened his gym less than two years ago, and COVID-19 put his future in a fragile state.
"It's been devastating to be closed for the last three months," Thompson said in his video. "If it weren't great members of our gym that paid their dues ahead of time and donated to the gym, I don't know if we would've been able to sustain this.”
Thompson talked about the people who sign up to train at his gym. Many of them don't have stable home lives and use his boxing classes as a safe place and mentorship for the next generation.
Mariya Kemper is the creative director and owner of Dancin' Off Broadway in Alexandria and Sauk Centre. She heads a staff that leads dance classes for children ages 3-18, the leading age demographics that struggle with mental health.
"It's been 90 days since our dance studio had to shut its doors," Kemper said in her video. "While the ever-changing nature of the pandemic has forced us to be creative beyond what we ever thought was possible, it has also been the most challenging time our studio has ever faced financially and strategically."
Kemper said they had moved classes to the virtual realm with severely discounted rates and without being able to provide their dancers with the development they are used to getting. She's concerned with the dancers' well-being after the stress of the shutdown has had on them.
"Providing dance to them virtually can't remotely compare to what we can provide in the studio," she said. "We foster a love for dance and one another."
Walz has not made any adjustments to the shutdown since the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce's push for a reopening last Thursday. Bitzan said the state commerce department wouldn't know what direction Walz will go towards until his next announcement, but they will continue to fight for the protection of local businesses.