Scenes from Lowell: Shopping While Social Distancing Edition

On Friday, March 13, parents across Michigan awoke to the news that school would be closed for at least three weeks. In the two weeks that have followed, we’ve seen movie theaters close, restaurants close and retail shops close too.

Since its arrival in Michigan, the novel coronavirus COVID-19 has had a dramatic effect on our lives. It has also been apparent to us at Lowell’s First Look that it has the potential to leave a permanent scar on our community if we don’t all pitch together to support our local businesses, churches and neighbors.

When it comes to supporting local businesses, we are putting our money where our mouth is. My family has made it a goal to support a different local business each day insofar as our budget will allow. Here’s what that’s looked like so far as we work to follow government and safety guidelines while keeping our spending dollars here in town.

Supporting Lowell, One Business at Time

Although I didn’t get a picture, we started on Sunday, March 15, by heading out for dinner at Hong Kong Buffet. This is, hands down, my kids’ favorite place to eat in town. From past experience, I knew it wasn’t likely to be crowded and was comfortable that we’d be able to keep our distance from others. When I asked the owner how business was going, he mentioned it had been down since news of the coronavirus hit. The last I heard, the restaurant is still open for takeout, and my kids have been lobbying heavily for me to order our next dinner out from there.

On Monday, we took a trip to Rookies. As became our routine for this first week, we decided where we were going in advance and tried to have a good idea what we wanted to pick up. Our goal was to get in and out of stores without much lingering. We only picked up items we thought we might buy, were careful not touch our faces and then washed our hands well once we got home.

With school being out of session for at least a month, Rookies seemed like a good store to hit first. We picked up some games, and Sushi Go! has been popular with all my kids from ages 7 to 21. While Rookies is closed to walk-in traffic as a part of the current “Stay Home” order, you may be able to call-in an order. Check the Rookies Facebook page for details and special offers.

Tuesday was St. Patrick’s Day so we picked up take-out corned beef dinners from Larkin’s. The food was piping hot when we got it, not to mention delicious. Sadly, Larkin’s is now closed until government restrictions are lifted.

We also ran through the McDonald’s drive thru for shamrock shakes. As a note, we are working to spend most of our money at locally owned businesses, but if fast food is on your radar, consider making your purchase in town rather than at a location elsewhere. Even if the sign out front has a big corporation’s name on it, the people working inside are local folks who could use your help to keep their hours.

On Wednesday, we went to North Star Antiques. This was a little more of a challenge to plan in advance because we didn’t actually know what we would find in the store. However, there were treasures around every corner, and when our current situation blows over, I am definitely going back for a lingering visit. This time, though, I took a relatively quick sweep through the store and found these books tucked away in the back. I remember loving The Story of Ping as a child and our family’s copy of Goodnight Moon has long seen better days so I was thrilled to find pristine copies of both.

While North Star Antiques is now closed to walk-in traffic, you can still shop via their online store.

Springrove Variety was next up at the request of my kids. I always forget what a great assortment of items are available in the store, but my kids were mainly interested in the candy. During our visit, there was one other family and another single shopper. Fortunately, Springrove Variety is so large that we didn’t have to worry about bumping into each other. Springrove Variety remains open at this time.

Creative Party Bug is a business based on people getting together. So when government orders put an end to that, the store’s owner got creative. She was able to source some locally made hand sanitizer and pulled out her stash of party goodies to make Creative Kits for families and teens to pass the time at home. We picked up two kits for our family, and they were instant hits.

Other creative at-home projects might be in the works so keep an eye on the Creative Party Bug Facebook page for details.

Whew! We survived our first week home from school! In the morning on Saturday, we placed an order for Boredom Survival Kits from Bettie’s Pages, a used bookstore that is one of Lowell’s newest businesses. For the kits, you include some details of your literary likes and dislikes, and the shop owner selects a couple books she thinks will interest you. The kids and I headed out to a desolate county park to walk on trails and came home to find a bag sitting by our door with the books and other goodies inside. The titles selected have all been hits so far, and I would highly recommend this service once it resumes in the future.

Right now, Bettie’s Pages is closed for store sales. However, you can shop for books online through the Bettie’s Pages Bookshop link.

On Sunday, we ordered breakfast from Keiser’s Kitchen. They had set up a system of taking payment over the phone and then placing orders where customers could grab easily grab them without getting in close contact with employees. Regrettably, the restaurant is no longer offering takeout and is closed until further notice.

On Monday, March 23, the announcement came through in the morning that Governor Gretchen Whitmer would be requiring everyone to stay home, except for essential business, starting at midnight. At this point, we decided it would be best to shift to online shopping and decided to take our business to Chimera Design. I’m fairly minimalist when it comes to jewelry, but I quickly found this cross necklace that was calling my name. A message sent to the business via Facebook received a quick reply, and I was able to run down to the shop that afternoon to pick up my purchase.

While the store is no longer open for retail hours, the owners are hoping to continue to sell online and ship purchases. You can see the latest items for sale on the Chimera Design Facebook page.

The previous week had taken its toll on many Lowell restaurants and some of the places we intended to visit, such as Main Street BBQ and Flat River Grill, had closed. Fortunately, Big Boiler Brewing was (and is) still open. The store has converted one of its windows into a takeout window to minimize contact between employees and customers. Our food was hot and delicious, and the portion of honey BBQ mac ‘n cheese I received was massive.

Big Boiler Brewing is still available for takeout. They have a limited menu and have also rolled out some family meal deals. Visit their Facebook page for the latest details.

And that brings us to yesterday. I made a Costco run a week before the news blew up with stories about the coronavirus, and people cleared the store shelves of toilet paper. We’re a family of seven here so I am used to stocking up. However, it’s been about a month, and I am starting to worry slightly that the supply at Meijer hasn’t been replenished. Plus, I have a roast chicken recipe I’d like to try, but chicken has been tough to come by at Meijer as well.

So when I heard that Red Barn Market had added new grocery items, including toilet paper and chicken, I ran up there for the essentials. In addition to a couple single rolls, I nabbed a pack of their industrial toilet paper rolls which I figure should last a while if needed. A full list of what’s for sale is available at the Red Barn Market Facebook page.

For as long as its sustainable, we plan to continue to order takeout once or twice a week and shop online from Lowell stores. Tap House Bo, Sweet Seasons and Lavender & Lace are are couple on our list right now. In this way, we are continuing to stay home and stay safe, as required by the government, while also doing our part for the local economy.

While I know some people are concerned about reports of coronavirus being found on surfaces hours or even days after being contaminated, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of people contracting it through food or the mail. For me personally, I am more concerned about my daughter bringing COVID-19 home from her shift at Meijer than the virus hitching a ride on our takeout. However, if you are not comfortable ordering out right now, consider buying a gift certificate to support local businesses instead.


This article was updated on April 1, 2020 to clarify that Springrove Variety is still open.

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