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Nation & World

Minnesota Cookie Shop Owner On How New Coronavirus Surge Is Affecting Her Business

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

This week, we are checking back with business owners who have had to make tough decisions through the pandemic. Monday, we heard from a brewpub owner in Alaska. Yesterday, we spoke with chef Kelly Fields in New Orleans, who said...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

KELLY FIELDS: I mean, we are putting one foot in front of the other and showing up and just trying to cook food that we're excited to cook, that people are excited to eat.

KELLY: Well, today we are catching up with Tina Rexing. She runs T-Rex Cookies (ph) in Eagan, Minn.

Tina Rexing, welcome back.

TINA REXING: Thanks for having me again.

KELLY: So when we spoke to you back in the spring - this was April - and you were busy applying for and crossing your fingers for a PPP loan, the, you know, federal loans for small businesses. So that's where I want to start. What happened? Did you get the loan?

REXING: Yes, I did eventually get the loan, a very small one, which is enough to pay my employees that were not eligible for unemployment, so I kept them on board. And then I waited for my other employees whose unemployment ran out. And once their federal insurance - or unemployment insurance ran out, they came back on board with me too.

KELLY: Yeah. And just how are things going? I know that when we talked to you in April, sales then were about half of what they normally would have been, and you had had to lay off some staff. How are things looking now?

REXING: They are still very difficult from a shopping mall location. I have two locations. The mall location is doing very subpar in terms of traffic in the malls. My bakery location is doing OK. My wholesale is down by 60% because I was selling cookies to the U.S. Bank stadium, but that all fizzled away as soon as the stadiums closed. But I've also received an EDIL loan, which helped me keep going in terms of moving some of the money I owe to pay back next year versus this year.

KELLY: Wow. It sounds like you're just dealing with so much uncertainty and having to have so many irons in the fire, so many cookies in so many different ovens and heading to so many places to try to hold it all together.

REXING: Yes, it's been a good experience from a business owner perspective to be able to pivot on a dime when necessary. And that's why I also received a couple of grants. And I'm taking those funds to help me go towards the consumer-packaged goods - so selling my cookies and cookie dough in grocery stores. So it kind of forced me to take a look at my business model in a different way - so moving away from retail where people come into my store and having people, because of COVID, wanting to bake more of their things at home.

KELLY: Wow. If you could, you know, shout directly into the ears of local or state government leaders in terms of what would really help you and other small businesses, what would you tell them?

REXING: I think from a little bit more guidance from the government in terms of when are they going to close instead of finding out a couple of days, you know, in terms of what they're going to do with allowing people coming in to malls, just, you know - just let us know ahead of time if you can tell us, that way we can better prepare for traffic or lack thereof.

KELLY: Yeah. And, I mean, let's end on a high note. Have you got any special cookies lined up for the holidays?

REXING: We do. We actually are making a sweet potato casserole cookie with marshmallows and sweet potato. So if you don't like sweet potatoes, maybe this is a way to eat them.

(LAUGHTER)

KELLY: Well, that sounds like something to look forward to.

Tina Rexing, thank you.

REXING: Thanks for having me.

KELLY: She's the owner of T-Rex Cookies in Eagan, Minn.

(SOUNDBITE OF PECAS'S "T-SHIRT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.