Big Sky businesses, organizations provide for community
By Jessianne Castle EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – As Gallatin County announces local orders to limit social gatherings and promote social distancing by cancelling large events and closing restaurants and bars, the Big Sky community sets sail in unknown waters. However, while many businesses and nonprofits are seeking ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and encourage social distancing, they’re looking to provide for the community.
“We’ve had a lot of independent businesses and organizations step up,” said Big Sky Chamber of Commerce CEO Candace Carr Strauss. The Chamber has compiled a list of community resources that is available online and includes information about food and medical assistance.
Gallatin City-County Health Officer Matt Kelley issued the closure of restaurants and bars on March 16 to limit public congregation and the potential spread of coronavirus, however grocery stores, convenience stores and take-out and delivery services may continue to operate.
Alex Omania, owner of Lotus Pad in Big Sky Town Center, was worried after hearing the news, but is transitioning with her employees to offer meal delivery in order to keep servers employed and provide food to Big Sky. Lotus Pad will deliver meals for a fee based on location, and the fee goes directly to the driver. Additionally, Lotus Pad is offering discounted pick-up meals. Omania also said Lotus Pad is stocked with toilet paper and they will throw in a roll for free on any order.
“Nobody knows what’s going to happen,” she said. “This is like a Hail Mary. I’m really worried about people and how they’re going to pay their bills. We’re just trying to keep people employed.
“People are scared and worried,” she added. “A nice meal is always a good thing to comfort you when you’re worried.”
Omania sad she’s most concerned about how COVID-19 will impact the Big Sky workforce and how laid-off workers will be able to pay their bills if businesses continue to close. On top of that, she added that March is usually one of Lotus Pad’s busiest months and she doesn’t know what the repercussions of this pandemic will be.
Shortly after receiving the closure notice on March 16, Omania was told a member of the Yellowstone Club had purchased $2,500 worth of Lotus Pad gift cards in $100 increments and the undisclosed person was going to give the gift cards to those in need. “It made me cry,” she said, adding that the purchase is a demonstration of support for local businesses and community members.
The Country Market, Hungry Moose Market and Deli, and Roxy’s Market are continuing to offer regular delivery services, but have made specific adjustments to meet Big Sky’s changing needs.
The Country Market is waiving all delivery fees and will either drop groceries off at residences between 5 and 7 p.m. daily, or deliver them to cars waiting in the parking lot. Additionally, owner Lynne Anderson said the grocery is trying to meet product demand by buying items in bulk and repackaging when possible.
The Hungry Moose is waiving delivery fees for grocery orders under $50 and is coordinating with customers to either put groceries inside the home or leave them outside of a residence if a person is feeling ill. While this coordination is important for keeping delivery drivers healthy, Hungry Moose said on a March 16 Facebook post that it is still important to be bear-safe in Big Sky and we need to be proactive to prevent bears from getting into grocery orders left on doorsteps.
“We want to make sure everyone is able to get their food if they are unable or don’t feel comfortable leaving their homes,” Hungry Moose wrote in the post.
Roxy’s Market has also adjusted its regular delivery service and is waiving delivery fees to anyone over the age of 65. “We’re just trying to help the community,” said Roxy’s Manager Josh Treasure. “I don’t think you can find any one person who hasn’t been affected. We’re just trying to help take that burden off the community.”
He added that rather than see those who are at highest risk of complications from COVID-19 come into the store and risk exposure, he’d rather offer free grocery delivery.
Additionally, Treasure said Roxy’s is working hard to keep shelves stocked and the only item the store was sold out of at noon on March 17 was hand sanitizer, though he expected a resupply of the product on Friday, March 20. “We’re utilizing every resource we have,” he said. “Manufactures have plenty of product but are struggling to get it out fast enough.”
The Big Sky Community Food Bank is also responding to COVID-19 and has expanded its hours. The food bank is now open 3-7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays. Food is available via a drive-through service and on Fridays, those who are ill or in quarantine can request delivery of a food box. Food boxes for delivery or pick-up are available twice a month and are pre-packed with a week’s supply of food.
Anderson, of The Country Market, is a founding member of the food bank and has been working with local restaurants who are shuttering their doors in order to prevent food spoilage. To-date, she’s repurposed food from the Corral and Michaelangelo’s for distribution at the Big Sky Community Food Bank.
In a statement released online, the food bank staff expressed its gratefulness to area residents. “We have been so very thankful for the outpouring of support already seen from the Big Sky community,” the statement said. “We have all confidence that we’ll be able to meet the needs of our friends and neighbors in Big Sky.”
While the Big Sky School District has closed the school’s facilities and is transitioning to online learning, it announced it will continue to provide lunches to students in the school’s lunch program, as well as anyone else that needs a meal. Food will be available for pickup 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at the door of the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center.
Visit bigskychamber.com/communityupdates for more information, community updates and a list of additional food and medical resources.