Making the most of it

Published 8:30 am Sunday, October 4, 2020

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Area businesses remodel while shut down during the pandemic


While the economic shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly put a strain on small businesses around the country, some local businesses used the shutdown to their advantage and used the time to upgrade and renovate their establishments.

Harold’s Bar, Glenville American Legion Post 264 and Uptown Fitness in Lake Mills are three of the area businesses that gave their buildings a new look. From small renovations on the inside to full-building overhauls, all three businesses chose to make the most out of their time without customers.

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Harold’s Bar revamps interior; gets fresh paint job

Harold’s Bar, an Albert Lea establishment since 1960, got a new look with a new paint job to the outside of the building as well as the roadside sign. On top of the paint job, the inside of the bar got a new look as well.

The bar area will look vastly different from what customers are used to including a brand new bar top, new barstools and a new tin wall surrounding the entire bar. Three new TVs sit atop the bar where animal heads from hunting trips used to be displayed.

Todd Haroldson, owner of Harold’s Bar since 1984 when he took it over from his father, said the bar was in great need of updates.

“I try to fix as much as I can and do as much as I can,” Haroldson said. “I devote a lot of time to this place … It had to be done, and I’m hoping to draw more. That’s the point; I’m hoping to draw a few more people that never would have come out. I hope to, and I hope they like it.”

At the time of the interview, Harold’s was not yet open to the public. Haroldson expected to see a rush of people coming through the doors when they did open, but was not quite sure how things would look when they did. He emphasized that the health and safety of both his workers and customers would be his top priority when they did open.

In his second phase of remodeling, Haroldson said he plans on moving the women’s restrooms from their current spot in the middle of the building to the east side of the building. The moving of the restrooms would then allow him to open up the space and connect the bar area with the old restaurant portion, which would greatly expand available space.


Necessary repairs lead to added renovations

The Glenville Legion Post 264 also renovated its bar area as well as its entrance area and bathrooms.

Bob Knutson, the Legion post commander, said one of the biggest complaints they have gotten over the years is the bathrooms needed to be updated. Both the men’s and women’s restrooms received new ceiling tiles, lighting and fans, flooring and a fresh paint job.

The entrance to the bar used to be closed off from view to the bartenders, but now includes a window that allows workers to see who is coming in and going out. The bar received new front paneling and new decorations  on the inside and outside of the building made by Black Iron Manufacturing.

Knutson said some of the projects needed to get done, but once they got started they decided they might as well keep going.

“There were some things that we absolutely had to do, but when the ball got rolling, it just kept on going,” Knutson said. “The nice thing is that we would have been shut down anyway with the new flooring behind the bar. So we just said, ‘Let’s get this done now.’ Who knew it was going to last this long?”

The Legion was able to reopen to the public in some capacity in June. Knutson said the reactions to the improvements have been overwhelmingly positive.

“Everybody was anxious to come and see what we had done because it is a big change,” Knutson said. “It’s brighter and it’s just more welcoming.”


Shutdown after big move becomes blessing in disguise

For Heather Yeoman and Rachel Olson, owners of Uptown Fitness, the shutdown came the day after they closed on a new building.

The fitness center went from about 1,100 square feet in its previous space to 7,000 in its new building and many improvements had to be made.

Yeoman said, looking back, she is grateful to have the time she did to work on the building, but at the same time it was nerve-racking because they had no idea when they would be able to open again.

“It ended up being a blessing in disguise,” Yeoman said. “The terrifying thing was we just weren’t sure how long we were going to be closed. During the move from our rental space to here, we had only planned to be shut down for five days.”

The shutdown ended up being six weeks long and Yeoman said they used all of that time.

As a retail space before becoming Uptown Fitness, the building needed some walls installed to make new rooms and there was a lot of shelving that needed to come down and be taken out of the building.

Uptown fitness is now home to a large studio floor with a stage, a dedicated room for yoga, a cycling room in the basement and two rental spaces in the basement which are home to a massage therapist and an esthetician.

During the shutdown, Uptown Fitness continued to offer courses through online platforms and was able to keep on 100% of the clients it had before the shutdown period began.

Uptown fitness had a small open house with only a few people allowed in the building at a time. Yeoman said everyone who came through the building was blown away at what they had done to the space. While classes are still a little different than normal, Yeoman is grateful they were able to be back in some form.

“We’re doing things a little bit differently right now,” Yeoman said. “It’s just so wonderful to be able to do anything, we’re very blessed. We don’t know any day what could change. We’re just trying to be careful and take care of our people.”


About Tyler Julson

Tyler Julson covers sports for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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