San Juan County businesses are being creative and adapting during these very tough times. Right now, our three Chambers of Commerce, the San Juan County Economic Development Council, and the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau ask islanders to continue eating, shopping, staying and playing locally. Why not enjoy a staycation by visiting a neighboring island within the county, or your own island, this fall? Grab a picnic or take-out meal at a restaurant and hike at a park. Try out a glamping tent, a B&B or a restaurant that has always been on your list. Shop at a different farmers’ market or farm stand, or visit another island village to shop early for Christmas. Since September is many locals’ favorite month, it’s perfect timing for island-based adventures. Please remember to wear your masks.
The Visitors Bureau, Chambers and EDC have crafted a series of stories to highlight how businesses on Lopez, Orcas and San Juan Island have coped, giving you a chance to further support our businesses to help them stay “San Juan Islands Strong.” This week’s article highlights one business that replied to a request for “COVID coping” stories, but islanders know there are many more businesses that have created magic in their own ways.
Story #1: Fermented Love & Community Care, the Story of Ursa Minor
Lopez Island’s Ursa Minor, and its chef Nick Coffey, have garnered international attention and clientele from around the world, but that’s not a lot of help during a pandemic. Here’s what they’ve done to creatively stay afloat.
“When our dining room was forced to close in mid-March, we knew our survival depended upon immediate action. Beautifully plated conceptual dishes just didn’t seem appropriate, so we launched ‘Comfort Food To-Go.’ Something we had thought would only be temporary lasted 16 weeks, and we are still serving up fried chicken to-go,” related Nova Askue, Ursa Minor co-owner. “In the early days of the pandemic, we were working 24/7 on any project we thought would keep us and similar businesses afloat and appeal to a grieving customer base. We started churning out pints of ice cream, take & bake lasagnas, take-home grill kits, and curated a Bag of Provisions. We also collaborated with Holly B’s Bakery and included sweet treats with every take-out order.
“Serendipitously, we had launched an Ursa Minor Ferments program back in January. We also benefited from the Lopez Island Family Resource Center partnership with nineteen local restaurants and farmers. For five months straight we made 64 meals and 100 pints of soup weekly to feed low-income community members.”
Their latest marketing idea, a branded t-shirt, quickly sold out through merch4relief.com and they are looking at other merchandise to help bridge the gap until they can reopen.
“If there’s anything that this pandemic has taught us, working collectively to survive is the key to our community’s future. We don’t know when our dining room will re-open, but we will continue to adapt our business accordingly and collaborate with our neighbors in order to make sure our local economy survives this setback,” Nova concluded. To learn more about Ursa Minor see www.ursaminorlopez.com.
Islanders, please keep up the good work and continue to eat, shop, stay and play in San Juan County. A strong economy builds a strong community.
Submitted by the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau; EDC; and the Lopez, Orcas and San Juan Island Chambers of Commerce. Publication funding provided by a grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce.