As pandemic closes doors, Minnesota creamery charts path to open new ones

Alise Sjostrom of Redhead Creamery
Alise Sjostrom of Redhead Creamery in central Minnesota has started making deliveries of cheese and other food items to customers. It's not something the creamery did before the pandemic -- but they're finding it to be popular.
Courtesy of Alise Sjostrom

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt various supply chains in Minnesota, some farmers and small business owners are getting creative and adapting to the changing conditions.

In some cases, a major pivot has opened new doors in getting products to the masses.

Alise Sjostrom and her husband operate their business, Redhead Creamery, in central Minnesota. The creamery produces artisan farmstead cheese and other food items, and normally sells it out of a shop near Brooten.

She said that when the statewide stay-at-home order and business restrictions took effect in March, the business — like some restaurants and other food providers deemed essential businesses — transitioned to a delivery-based approach.

Redhead Creamery started making trips to customers across the region.

"We're used to people coming to us. And so it's been kind of a dramatic shift for us to be going out to our customer and hand-delivering their orders right to them," Sjostrom said.

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In addition to home deliveries, Sjostrom said, they've been "creating meeting points for people to meet us along the way. So, you know, it's been random parking lots at this point."

Sjostrom said these meeting spots get added to delivery routes she and her husband have been using to deliver cheese orders to people's homes.

The couple says like other delivery services, they're taking steps to keep themselves and their customers safe, and following social-distancing guidelines.

For Redhead Creamery, the pivot seems to be working. Sjostrom said she expected that after the initial orders, business would slow down — but they are seeing repeat orders for delivery.

"The excitement people have, of having that connection with the person instead of having it (shipped) to their door ... it's something different, and it's been really interesting to watch it evolve. And it's shocking that orders have not slowed down," she said.

Depending on how the state reopens in the coming months, Sjostrom said they might maintain the delivery approach as part of their business.

Last week, Gov. Tim Walz extended Minnesota's stay-at-home order until May 18. However, his office also removed some restrictions to allow more "nonessential" businesses, including various retailers, to reopen for curbside pick-up and deliveries.