Splash: Reporter shares support for local establishments

TOASTING TO 35 years of Goose Blind Grill & Bar are, from left, Jolene Gundrum, Quinn Johnson, Arryn Drover, Anuar Majana, Lisa Morris, Kira Taylor and Mary Rowley. Last Month Rowley Announced she is looking to retire. Joe Schulz photo

by Joe Schulz

Small businesses add value to any community, and Green Laker country is no exception.

The area’s small businesses are what make it unique by providing a kind of charm that’s hard to find anywhere else. 

Those businesses ensure we have more options than golden arches of McDonalds or the navy blue warehouse of Walmart.

Now, more than ever, it’s important that we continue to support our local establishments because they have been most impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and add immense value to our communities.

The majority of chains and large corporations will survive the pandemic, but small businesses may not. 

While local establishments have been aided by summer tourism, many are still working to recover from losses sustained in March and April. 

Whether Goose Blind Grill & Bar in Green Lake, the Pie Shack in Berlin or Ford’s Gathering in Princeton, every small business has a story because every small business is someone’s dream.

I think Princeton Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tracy Ebert summed it up best when we spoke about a month ago.

“If it wasn’t for these small businesses, you would have a whole downtown full of what? Nothing,” she said. 

That’s why, with so many events canceled due to the coronavirus, I’ve used my role at the Green Laker to highlight a variety of the area’s iconic establishments. 

I’ve always been passionate about small businesses because my grandma, Betty, owned Schoenberger’s Pastry Shop in Oshkosh for several decades before closing in September 2012. 

My grandma’s bakery is where I had my first job, becoming a store clerk at 14 years old. My next job was for a small pizzeria in Oshkosh called Red’s Pizza & Catering, which is where I worked throughout high school. 

Working at those establishments taught me a lot about work ethic during my developmental years. Without those experiences, I may not be the guy I am today. 

In trying to learn more about the area’s small business community, I discovered that many of the small businesses in Green Laker country were hit on the chin by the coronavirus.

Town Square Tap co-owner Zach Frazier mixes up a smoothie. Joe Schulz photo

When Wisconsin locked down to slow the virus’ spread, restaurants were forced to close for dine-in service, while those businesses deemed “non-essential” were shuttered completely. 

Since reopening in April, many area businesses have implemented strict cleaning measures, installed signage promoting social distancing, asked workers to wear face coverings as well as installed plexiglass partitions, according to Green Lake County Public Health Officer Kathy Munsey. 

“I have seen a lot of our local restaurants who have really gone above and beyond with implementing safety measures, and those would be places I’m comfortable going to,” Munsey said of businesses’ safety precautions. “I have been very vocal with the local restaurant scene that the more measures you can put in place that are visible to the public, the better off it will be.”

Personally, I’ve been truly amazed this summer with the steps taken by local businesses  to keep their customers safe. 

In speaking with small business owners, I’ve learned that for many their business is more than a source of income; it’s been a lifelong dream that’s given them the opportunity to be their own bosses. 

Additionally, many are active community members who, during a normal summer, find multiple ways to support the plethora of events in Green Laker country.

Our small businesses are what make our communities stand out by filling our downtowns with life, which means it’s up to us to help them stay alive even as summer begins to fade and the seasons change. 

I’m hopeful for the future of our downtown businesses because as Ripon business owner Howard Hansen says, in Green Laker country, “We take care of our own.”