Door County Businesses Chip In, Adapt to New Reality

Local businesses are proving that you don’t need deep pockets or a Fortune 500 pedigree to help your neighbors during a national crisis. On Monday, Gov. Tony Evers announced further business closings to try to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, pushing businesses to take innovative measures to generate cash flow and help their communities.

Hatch Distillery in Egg Harbor is following the example of distilleries around the country that have converted their processes to make hand sanitizer. 

“By volume, the biggest ingredient is high-proof alcohol,” said owner Chris Roedl. “I wouldn’t normally say this is the best use of hand-crafted vodka with Door County honey, but it’s what we have.”

Roedl, whose wife works at Door County Medical Center (DCMC), said he’ll be making five gallons of sanitizer per week for both Scandia Village and DCMC as long as he has a supply of other ingredients such as hydrogen peroxide and glycerol. He also said it’s tough to find containers to put it in right now. 

“This really shows you how interconnected the world is and all the different ways life is affected,” he said. 

At Key Industrial Products in Sturgeon Bay, owner Mike Keyser’s team began 3D-printing masks. 

“With our capabilities here, I figured I’d put it to use in our local area,” he said. “They’re basically a hard plastic, reusable cover, with a filter you can pop out and pop in. We went to Door County Hardware and got a filter. It’s similar, but not quite N95 standard. But when you have medical workers [who are] desperate, it can’t hurt.”

Key Industrial Products is printing masks with a 3D printer. Submitted.

His company, located in the Sturgeon Bay Industrial Park, is still operating through the state shutdown because the company machines products for the pharmaceutical and medical products industries. But that doesn’t mean his workforce hasn’t been affected by the crisis.

Keyser said he’s down two of his eight employees. One has an illness unrelated to the virus, and another employee’s wife is in the midst of a high-risk pregnancy and is staying home for the moment. Those who remain are working with stepped-up safety measures.

“We require everyone to use hand sanitizer every single time you enter the building, maintain our space, minimize our deliveries,” Keyser said. “It’s a different time.”

At Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, Door County’s largest employer, work continues through the shutdown as well. The Departments of Defense and Homeland Security and the Navy have communicated to Fincantieri leaders that the work they are contracted to do is vital to the nation’s economic and national security, so there is an expectation of continued operations.

Leaders at the two largest Fincantieri shipyards have instituted many changes to prevent the spread of the virus, such as multiple daily cleanings of high-traffic areas, social distancing throughout the facilities, prohibiting nearly all travel, detailed screening of all visitors and deliveries, and using remote and shift work when possible. 

“The Sturgeon Bay shipyard remains busy, working every day to get the commercial winter fleet ready to depart,” said Todd Thayse, Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding’s vice president and general manager. “The 12 commercial vessels in Sturgeon Bay for winter repairs are near completion and will depart later this month to begin hauling critical products like grain and coal.”

Restaurants continue to offer pickup and delivery services to try to offset losses from the statewide shutdown of bars and dining rooms. Many have come up with creative specials and services. At Kick Ash Coffee in Ellison Bay, staff members have been pleasantly surprised by the community support. Customers place orders ahead, then employees place them in labeled bags in a cart in front of the restaurant for customers to pick up. 

Last week we reported on local grocers who have rapidly altered operations to accommodate health and safety concerns and vulnerable residents. Stores such as Greens N Grains, Piggly Wiggly and Main Street Market are offering curbside pickup for those who don’t feel comfortable entering the store. By last Friday, Main Street Market had gone entirely pickup, which is no easy task for the staff, said Steve Northrop after loading up the back of a patron’s vehicle. 

Main Street Market has switched to pickup only. Photo by Myles Dannhausen Jr.

“It’s a lot harder this way,” Northrop said. “We did about 25 pickups the first day, and now we’re up over 150. It’s kind of hard to do the shopping for people.”

And at The Kitschinn on Saturday, dozens of friends awkwardly kept their distance from each other as they stopped by the Sister Bay outpost of Tapuat Kombucha. Owners Nick and Mary Lou Devily were giving away cases and growlers of kombucha to anyone who responded to a social-media callout earlier in the week. 

“No reason, really,” said Nick Devily. “It was Mary’s idea. We just thought it would be a nice thing to do for people right now.”

If you know of businesses that are coming up with new ways to operate during or contribute to the fight against coronavirus, email [email protected]

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