A weekend unlike any other morphed into a Monday when more Minnesota businesses realized they would have to radically change how they operate or close indefinitely to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
Downtown Minneapolis emptied out further as Target Corp., the largest employer, told its employees to work from home, if possible.
Dozens of other downtown employers had already taken that step, leaving the restaurants, convenience stores and other small businesses that serve them to make plans to close.
“Today is the first day that business fell off a cliff,” said Frank Gambino, owner of three Andrea Pizza locations downtown and one in Dinkytown. “We’re doing only 20% of our normal business. At this rate we’ll close in a few days.”
By the end of the day, it was clear Gambino wouldn’t wait that long. In a late afternoon event, Gov. Tim Walz told restaurants and bars they should close to help create more “social distancing” that experts believe will slow the spread of the deadly illness.
Moises Gutierrez of Crossings Skyway Barbers & Salon was one of the rare downtown businesses who hadn’t felt a decline in business until Monday.
“Our business is mostly by appointment and we’re good for the next couple of weeks, but I expect some cancellations,” he said. “We’ll stay open until we hear from the Minnesota barbering board or the cosmetology board that we have to close.”
Many retailers conducted flash sales to draw shoppers and lower inventories ahead of possible closures. Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack also made an unprecedented move of discounting nearly the entire store 10% Saturday and Sunday.
By Monday, the pressure to close grew on stores and businesses that stayed open through the weekend.
Brookfield Properties, which owns numerous shopping malls, including Ridgedale, said Monday that it is indefinitely trimming its hours to noon to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays, effective immediately.
At the Mall of America in Bloomington, executives announced that Nickelodeon Universe will close Wednesday through the end of the month, but mall hours remain unchanged.
“The mall looks more like a Monday than Saturday,” shopper Gabriela Diaz of Columbia Heights said at the Mall of America on Saturday afternoon.
Nordstrom had already trimmed its hours by Saturday, closing at 7 p.m. on Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday at the Mall of America and Ridgedale.
Many retailers announced reduced hours in recent days, including Walmart and Trader Joe’s. Others shut down for the rest of the month, including Nike, Lululemon, Abercrombie & Fitch, J. Crew, Urban Outfitters, REI, Patagonia, Anthropologie and Apple.
Store employees stood near the entrances of Apple stores in the Mall of America and Ridgedale on Saturday for people picking up repairs, but they directed shoppers to use Apple’s website.
Best Buy said on Monday that its stores saw an upswing in demand for computer accessories, such as monitors, that would be useful to people working at home. Sales of freezers and refrigerators have also been brisk in recent days, reflecting the stockpiling mentality of people hunkering down.
“We are seeing a surge in demand across the country for products that allow people to work or learn from home as well as those products that allow people to refrigerate or freeze food,” Best Buy said in a statement. “Our teams are working hard to meet this demand while keeping their safety top of mind.”
Brad Ruoho of Legacy Toys announced several items to help parents who need to occupy the time of kids who are suddenly home from school. “We’re creating game and craft packages for kids that are staying home during this,” he said.
Ruoho said traffic at his stores in the Mall of America, Ridgedale and the Galleria was down more than 20% on Saturday and 50% on Sunday. The store set up delivery and pickup services to encourage shoppers who may not want to, or may not be able to, come into the store.
One business seemed to thrive over the weekend and Monday: supermarkets and discount stores.
Cub Foods, the largest grocery chain in Minnesota, said Monday it experienced “record level” customer demand that was greater than around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Lunds & Byerlys, which has stores throughout the Twin Cities, cut back hours in locations open until midnight. The company said it will now open at 7 a.m. and close at 9 p.m. so employees can devote more time to replenishing shelves and cleaning.
It also asked most shoppers not to come to its stores until 8 a.m., saying it wanted to reserve the first hour of the day to people who are at most risk of getting coronavirus, which it defined as “older adults and those who have compromised immune systems.”
“Our intent is to provide an opportunity for those individuals to be the first to shop after our overnight cleaning and stocking so they have increased access to essential products,” the company said.
For many businesses, the decision whether to cut back hours is accompanied by a search for ways to keep making money.
Alex West Steinman, chief executive of the Coven, a co-working space for women with locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul, said both would be closed starting Tuesday. The firm may offer remote services, such as virtual classes and even a virtual happy hour.
The question, West Steinman, said is, “How do we continue to monetize when the core of our business the physical space is not being used?”
Staff writers Nicole Norfleet and Kavita Kumar contributed to this story.