‘We’ve worked hard to pivot ourselves for the pandemic and the future’: How Monroe Street business owners are staying positive & productive

Photo by Andrea Behling

MADISON, Wis.– It takes three things to run a successful business on Monroe Street: a good attitude, gratitude, and the ability to adapt.

Just ask Annemarie Maitri, the owner of Bloom Bake Shop. Maitri opened her original bakery in Middleton almost 11 years ago and brought it to Madison in 2017. Just as she was starting to expand her menu and customer base came a curveball: Two years of sidewalk-shutting, road-closing Monroe Street construction.

By the start of 2020, Maitri and her neighboring small business owners thought the toughest times were behind them. They were finally starting to rebound.

Then came COVID-19.

“You just have to go into survival mode immediately and reevaluate everything as you knew it,” said Maitri.

For Maitri, the initial ‘Safer at Home’ order meant temporarily suspending all business at Bloom, so she could reevaluate and safely reopen piece-by-piece.

“We still follow all the health and safety standards that are known in the restaurant industry, but on top of that, we wear masks, we wear gloves, and we sanitize very frequently,” said Maitri. She started bring more employees back to work, staggering their shifts to space out interaction. Another challenge: tackling technology.

“I’m a baker. I’m a creative. And we’ve quickly, as restaurants and bakers and small businesses, had to get very tech savvy.”

Like many shops in Madison, Maitri still doesn’t allow outsiders inside her store, a decision she calls “heartbreaking, but important.” Customers can either order online or at the walk-up window. Bloom uses the online ordering platform Toast.

It’s taken nearly nine months, but Bloom is now back open five days a week. Other small businesses aren’t as lucky. According to Yelp’s Local Economic Impact Study, nearly 100,000 businesses have closed permanently during the pandemic. And that data is only from the first six months of the ongoing shutdowns.

Still, Maitri remains optimistic 2021 will be better for her community of business owners.

“We’ve worked really hard to pivot ourselves for the pandemic and for our future,” Matri said.

Armed with adaptability and a good attitude, the baker also tossed in her signature dash of optimism, “That gives me a lot of hope.”

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