There’s a famous scene in the show Friends where Ross enlists Rachel and Chandler to help him carry a couch up a narrow flight of stairs, and he ends up madly shouting, “Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!” as the too-large sofa becomes lodged in the corner of the stairway. It’s a hilarious moment, and one that reflects the far-more-serious motto for many business owners during the pandemic amid shutdowns, shifting regulations, and changes in consumer habits.
Despite the difficulty of the past year, some Utah businesses have found success by being nimble and willing to adjust their operations on a moment’s notice — and it’s no exception in Ogden where local support has been instrumental as well.
“Ogden businesses have been resilient largely thanks to locals who have been incredibly mindful of shopping and supporting local throughout this whole crisis,” noted Kim Bowsher, executive director of the Ogden Downtown Alliance. “Businesses supporting one another through partnerships and various shout-outs has also been incredible to see. To get through this, we all need to be choosy about where our money goes and voting with our dollars for all the things we want to still be around in the next handful of months or even years.”
While it’s disheartening to see the negative impact COVID has had on Utah’s business community, it’s also important to celebrate the successes by those working to keep their business afloat with big moves and creative solutions.
Lavender Vinyl (123 25th Street, Ogden)
After 10 years working at Ogden’s Graywhale Entertainment, Kye Hallows and Blake Lundell decided to strike out on their own and opened their own record shop, Lavender Vinyl, in 2016.
“Graywhale has been awesome to us. We are still really good friends with them and bounce back customers between the businesses. It really has been a symbiotic relationship for both of us,” said Hallows, highlighting the collaboration-over-competition attitude that appears to permeate the Ogden business community.
When the pandemic hit last March, Hallows and Lundell knew they had to make changes in how they operated or they wouldn’t survive. For two months, they shuttered the doors to walk-in customers and opted instead for curbside pick-up and home delivery of their records all over Ogden.
“We started doing a grab bag option, so someone can message us and say, ‘We want to spend $50 and this is the kind of stuff we’re listening to.’ Then we curate a selection of albums for them,” explained Hallows. “It’s been a really fun way for people to discover new things because we’re making recommendations and it’s been really fun for us. That’s my job, and I love getting to curate music selections for people.”
The partners also took the time to ramp up their formerly “silly website” into a dynamic landing pad for online browsing and sales.
“It’s unfortunate we’ve seen so many businesses suffer and close during all of this,” said Hallows. “We’re really grateful to still be here, and I think a big part of that is being a community-based store. We rely on our community a lot, and they’ve really shown up for us.”
Wimpy & Fritz (2430 Grant Avenue, Ogden)
At the end of September, Wimpy & Fritz — winners of the best tacos in Utah at the latest SLC Taco Fest in 2019 — added a brightly colored food truck to its downtown Ogden restaurant.
“It was always in the plan, but we pushed it quicker with the pandemic happening so we could get out there. I think a lot of people are more comfortable with the food truck and being outside than dining in the restaurant,” said Lane Montoya, who started the taco restaurant in 2018 with his friend Brian Zinsmann.
With the food truck out five days a week, ample take-out orders and ramped up social media efforts, Wimpy & Fritz kept its seven employees on full-time throughout the pandemic.
“We figured out a different way of hustling,” said Montoya. But it was clear that not all restaurants in Ogden were as fortunate.
“We started something called Ogden Pay It Forward, so we were buying people dinners that were in the service industry, like bartenders and servers that had lost their jobs,” explained Montoya. “A lot of the locals heard about it and started calling in to buy dinners for people, so we spread the wealth a little bit and bought gift cards from other restaurants to give away to people and it trickled down.”
Serving traditional tacos with a twist — like 15-hour smoked pork shoulder carnitas tacos — Montoya credits Wimpy & Fritz’s success to quality products, hard work, and community support. And after just two years in business, the restaurant is already preparing to open its second location in 2021.
Beehive Naturals (186 25th Street, Ogden)
Opening a brick-and-mortar store mid-pandemic might not seem like the most logical move, but for Stephanie and Sam Ginn of Beehive Naturals, moving from peddling their goat milk and honey soaps and personal care products at farmers markets to their own shop on Ogden’s 25th Street paid off.
“We almost canceled it. We made the decision to open before COVID hit, but decided to go ahead with it, and it’s done really well so far,” said Sam.
Beehive Naturals began eight years ago when the Ginns decided to get chickens and honeybees at their Plain City home. Stephanie began making different products such as lip balms from wax and honey to give to friends and family. With the addition of Nubian dairy goats and a growing herb and flower garden, her product line continued to grow with goat milk soaps, salves, facial oils, body scrubs, bath salts, and more.
“It seems like we’ve gotten a whole new customer base since opening the store. The good thing is that Ogden folks are awesome for taking care of each other,” said Sam. “Once Small Business Saturday hit, we had people come in and as soon as they found out we were a local business and family business, they didn’t care what the cost was. They just wanted to support our local business.”
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