On this special edition of Focal Point, we interview President Samuel Stanley about how the coronavirus affects Michigan State students and the university’s plans moving forward. It’s not just college students who are forced to stay home from school; meet high schoolers finding new ways to make memories their senior year. Facing shortages of protective equipment, find out how some Michiganders are adapting and finding new ways to make hand sanitizer and face masks. All those stories and more on Focal Point.
Another business has been affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19, but this one hits home to the Michigan State campus. The Dairy Store officially closed its doors on Friday, September 11 and its not clear when they could reopen. Ronald Hendrick, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources says the lack of students and weekend event foot traffic is the cause for the business shut down. Sales were reduced by about 75 percent during the summer months. The Dairy Store has been around for over a century and this is the first time it has shut down, leaving students who are left on campus thinking about what they love most at the store.
The typically loud and rambunctious crowds in East Lansing bars have been replaced with control and regulation, rendering a dramatic change in the bar scene since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Before [the pandemic], it was very laid back, it was a fun environment to make good money at,” said Lauren Dix, server at Beggar’s Banquet. “It’s just a little bit tenser and there are not as many people coming in.”
After the COVID-19 pandemic forced Michigan State University to end in-person classes, hundreds of students flocked to the local bars in East Lansing. Not long after, the lack of social distancing and mask-wearing at many bars and restaurants caused many of them to shut down or implement new rules in order to minimize the spread of the coronavirus.
Four months after the pandemic reached East Lansing, many bars and restaurants attempted to re-open after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order on June 1 that allowed them to begin conducting business again. Some were able to open successfully, relying on curbside pickup and takeout orders to make up for the revenue that they lost while being forced to close down but, others, however, were not as successful.
Jillian Felton / Michigan State UniversityThe Lapeer Days website sharing that the event has been cancelled due to COVID-19. The aromas from vendors that travel from all over the country and crowds filled with people that come from near and far won’t be present in Lapeer this year.
Michigan’s largest free festival since 1902, Lapeer Days, will not be happening this year because of COVID-19. Neda Payne, director of the Lapeer Chamber of Commerce, said that everything for the event is run through the chamber office. There is a committee of about 25 people, and everyone handles a different aspect of the festival. Payne said that the festival fortifies the economy in Lapeer County and estimates the event brings in 300-400 thousand dollars each year.
“Our hotels are always full, the restaurants in the downtown area are very busy, the gas stations usually are making a ton of money,” Payne said.
Northern Michigan has become better known for a variety of excellent restaurants. We talk to the author and several people she interviewed for a new book that explores the development of food culture there, “Northern Harvest: Twenty Michigan Women in Food and Farming.” By Catherine McEvoy.
Courtesy of Mandy TamboriniSpun Sugar Detroit’s mobile cotton candy cart
What do cotton candy, event planning, and bartending all have in common? Each of these is part of a larger movement that has gained a lot of traction this summer: mobile services. With COVID-19 limiting peoples’ opportunities to celebrate events and accomplishments at a restaurant or a bar, mobile service companies such as cotton candy company Spun Sugar Detroit, mobile bartending company Neat Pours Detroit, and event planning and design company Morgan Taylor’d Events are stepping up and taking over. Mandy Tamborini, owner of Spun Sugar Detroit, started her business at the end of 2016 and has been doing mobile cotton candy sales for events and parties since 2017. She has eight cotton candy carts, giving her the flexibility to attend all different kinds of events whenever she is booked.
It was difficult at first for El Azteco general manger to get adjusted to not having people dine in. But after nearly three months, Johnny Vlahakis gets to see his loyal customers again. “Customers love the patio especially during this time of the year, but once we opened back up, people were lined up at the door,” said Vlahakis. El Azteco, like many other restaurants in Michigan and across the country, had to adjust once restaurants and bars could reopen, especially with making sure customers feel safe. One way El Azteco made sure its customers felt safe was by focusing on cleaning and sanitation.
Kalah HarrisJulio Suarez is pictured making a chicken shawarma wrap at the Bucharest Grill, Livernois location. DETROIT, Mich- When Bucharest Grill reopened on June 8, manager Ricardo Vidal was ready to serve good food and keep customers safe. “Anybody has to wear a mask coming into the restaurant,” Vidal said. “I think it’s better, it’s safer for everybody both my staff and the customers.”
Whitmer announced June 1 that the stay-at-home order will be lifted for restaurants, retail stores, day camps for children, pools, nail salons, spas and more in the then upcoming weeks. Restaurants are now allowed to have customers come inside of their establishments but at only 50% of its original capacity while following additional rules.
Courtesy of Zahra Saad of The Custard HutHot Waffle Sandwiches sold by The Custard Hut of Dearborn Heights, Michigan
Zahra Saad was startled by the reactions when she announced the opening of her business, the Custard Hut. “When we opened on April 10, I received multiple death threats, multiple threats on my business and actually had people calling the cops to try to shut me down, but we were allowed to be open,” said Saad. For many people, ice cream is the go-to staple of the summer. But during a global pandemic that limits face-to-face interaction and differing opinions by the public and business owners alike about when the appropriate time is to open a store, the sweet treat has undergone a lot of changes these past few months. Several Detroit ice cream stores were forced to close down because of the shelter in place order that was effective March 24.
Chase GoffDowntown East Lansing
When COVID-19 struck the nation, restaurants had to adjust to meet health regulations, making it hard for local businesses to keep their doors open. Mike Krueger, owner and general manager of Crunchy’s Bar and Grill, said that he had to completely change their model, as well as acquire products to meet the demands of the customers ordering takeout and delivery. “It was difficult, in the sense that we had to acquire a lot more to-go type products, boxes, to-go silverware, and that sort of thing because we decided that we wanted to still stay open for takeout and for delivery options,” said Crunchy’s Bar and Grill owner and general manager, Mike Krueger. “Also turning our model into a takeout model, rather than a dine in model was a challenge for us.”
Despite facing these challenges, Crunchy’s Bar and Grill was ready to open back up as soon as the stay at home order was lifted on June 1. The staff just needed to be recalled and trained, which wasn’t an issue according to Krueger.
Michigan restaurants don’t look as they used to before COVID-19. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order leaves restaurants with only one option to continue the business, and that is through carry-out orders.
Without customers at their tables, hundreds of restaurants across the state have placed their employees on furlough. For the remaining few, hours have been shortened. Some have temporarily closed until the order is lifted. Some will never open again.
At Red Lobster in Portage, Michigan, 17-year-old Sarah Sweers is a hostess who worked part time after school and on the weekends.