Delivery helps boost business at Larry's, but there's no sugar-coating the bakery's pandemic struggles
A look at how Larry's Family Pizza and Leeseberg's Sweet Treats in Wadena are weathering the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lisa Leeseberg has no interest in decreasing her employees' hours — as business thrives at Larry’s Family Pizza and struggles at Leeseberg’s Sweet Treats. The pandemic has provided plenty of extra ways for restaurant employees to keep busy, as cleaning and ensuring people are wearing masks is paramount. And these challenges are only a portion of the daily sighs.
When restaurants across the state were forced to shut down last spring, curbside pick-up and delivery services quickly became more popular. The spaces outside of Larry’s reserved for takeout orders regularly filled up in the evenings.
“Thank goodness we’ve got our takeout and delivery, because when everything shut down, at Larry’s it took off,” Leeseberg said. “The bakery, it did not. The bakery’s been struggling.”
The services have offered limited interactions between people. As the pandemic has worn on, the curbside line at Larry’s has seen a reprieve, Leeseberg said.
The bakery entered the pandemic in its first full year open, and has continued to experiment with every sugary treat imaginable. The delectable options continue to make people’s mouths water. In October, the daily specials returned. Leeseberg said the donut twists, cinnamon rolls, caramel rolls and fritters sell well.
Customers bring their own preferences in with them, some exhibiting relaxed behaviors and others masked head to toe, as Leeseberg describes. While wanting to remain open, the mask mandate comes as a constant challenge, she said, especially with young people who refuse to wear a mask. Before entering both restaurants, signs remind people to follow social distancing rules — and that yes, the bakery and Larry’s Pizza are open. Hand sanitizer is all around.
While staff have largely stayed on, Leeseberg said the worst is having to make decisions about losing staff, as they have families to feed. The teams have been staffed minus one or two at Larry’s, along with a reduction from March to June of 2020.
“I’m not one to cut their hours because of the pandemic, so that’s probably why we’re struggling so much also, is because … my help needs the money or they need their paycheck, and I’m not going to cut back hours if I don’t absolutely have to,” Leeseberg said. “I guess I’d rather go in the red more than watch them struggle.”
The Paycheck Protection Program aimed to support businesses to keep their employees. Almost a year ago, Larry’s received $55,700 and Leeseberg’s received $26,000 in PPP loans.
As Leeseberg’s “torn” between the two businesses and five children at home, she said it is more of a challenge to own both. There’s not always the time she hopes to put in at the bakery. As spring edges closer, she’s looking forward to more customers heading in the door.