Minnesota businesses shutter, stumble and slog through cold

Facing yet another brutally cold day, they packed it in, or innovated.

Even winter-weather-loving businesses are succumbing to the extreme cold locked down on Minnesota this week.

Across the state, ski slopes that usually draw crowds shut down Monday, as did a covered tennis dome in Minneapolis.

Some stores that could provide a cozy shopping diversion on chilly days also shut their doors. Even pizza shops dealt with a paradox of the extreme cold: lots of delivery demand but few diners at the tables in the restaurant.

And business owners statewide braced for yet another rough day on Tuesday, when the high isn’t expected to surpass zero in the metro area and windchills are expected to be as low as -40. Modest relief is expected late Tuesday and Wednesday, but temps will remain well below freezing.

Still, in a variety of ways, businesses coped. Some that didn’t shut their doors kept limited hours, or sent some employees home, or offered discounts.

From Buck Hill in Burnsville to Welch Village in Goodhue County to Giants Ridge in Biwabik to Spirit Mountain in Duluth, most ski slopes closed, done in by deadly windchills. At least one, Afton Alps, planned to reopen at 3 p.m. Tuesday

So did the indoor Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center on Nicollet Avenue S. in Minneapolis, which closed Monday.

Don McClure, general manager at Buck Hill, said that even if the place were open, no one would be there. “When it’s this bitter cold, people select other options,” he said, mentioning movies and video games as alternatives.

Still, McClure said he isn’t worried about business in general because, he said, extreme cold builds demand. “When we hit 35 degrees, we just blow the doors out,” he said. “The big days are making up for it.”

On St. Paul’s pedestrian-oriented Grand Avenue and at other locations, the Bibelot gift shop closed. “It’s a hardship for people to get out,” Bibelot owner Roxy Freese said. “We didn’t want to put our employees through that.”

She contemplated opening for a few hours but decided against it, saying, “This is very unusual. I hope my customers understand.”

Marie Dwyer, co-owner of Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul, Edina and Stillwater, sent out an e-mail offering customers 20 percent off purchases in the store or online. “It’s to drive traffic and interest and give people a break,” she said.

Independent stores struggled to balance the need to maintain consistent hours with the lack of revenue and safety concerns that extremely cold days can bring, and not all made the same decision.

A la Mode Boutique & Nail Salon at 50th and France in Edina stayed open. “We want to be here for clients,” owner Sara Saferstein said. “We can’t keep closing when it’s cold.”

Floyd’s Auto Sales in Stillwater was open, too. Manager Sharon Jensen said January sales fluctuate, but the volume of customers is down by about half this month.

“I’m certainly hoping for warmer weather,” she said. “It always works out; you’ve got to keep a positive attitude.”

Knowing your customer

At Pizza Lucè in Duluth, the cold gives and takes — deliveries spike, but fewer customers come to the dining room. Delivery manager Alex Eklund said cold streaks have a flow in the pizza business — the beginning of a cold streak sends deliveries soaring, but as the cold wears on, stir-craziness sets in and people need to get out — unless it gets too cold.

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