EagleHerald Staff Writer
MENOMINEE—Laurie’s Wildflower Café & Bagel Shoppe is looking for a few good people to keep it open and fully staffed.
It’s also up for sale.
If owner Laurie Beattie receives a decent offer for the café at 2210 10th St., she plans to join her husband Kevin in retirement, she said.
Kevin just retired from the hospital, where he was head of maintenance, Laurie said, “so as of right now he’s just starting to enjoy his retirement.” But because of the labor shortage, he may be working at Wildflower, she said.
Across the street at Nerat’s Plumbing and Heating, and at many other Menominee businesses, COVID-19 and a tight labor market also have curtailed companies’ efforts to return to pre-pandemic staffing levels.
A “for sale” sign hangs in Nerat’s window, and the business’s voicemail message announced, “Forced to close indefinitely due to unforeseen circumstances.”
Unlike some businesses that shutter their doors when business dries up, owner Don Nerat said his plumbing and heating company had the opposite problem—not enough workers to keep up with demand.
“It was too big for my sons to manage by themselves,” he said. “It’s been hard to find anybody in the plumbing and heating area. People don’t want to be in it late at night and working in ditches.”
“The stress level on the ones who were here was just too great,” he said.
A labor shortage in Menominee and Marinette is affecting businesses in many different industries.
“All around town, it’s been a problem,” said Francine Kitkowski, owner of Assist 2 Sell Buyers & Sellers Realty of Marinette and Menominee, the company that has Beattie’s shop listed. The workforce is “over demanded and under supplied,” Kitkowski said, especially in the skilled trades like plumbing, heating and electricity. Restaurant cooks also are commanding higher wages because they are in such demand, she said.
At Wildflower, Beattie might not have faced the crossroads of whether to sell the business or keep trying to staff up if COVID-19 hadn’t come along.
“We would have worked through it if we could have,” Beattie said. “Last year I did lose $100,000 dollars,” or about a third or more of her annual revenue. The cafe was closed for two months, she said. She also laid off several workers, and most stayed on unemployment because of the federal dollars that boosted the weekly stipend.
Prominent “help wanted” signs at Wildflower’s location on 10th Street have attracted job applicants in the past, along with placing ads in the newspaper and on radio. But they aren’t pulling in applicants this year. “The work force is just not good. There are signs everywhere in the twin cities. Everyone is looking for help. There’s just not that many people looking” for jobs, she said.
Nerat’s Plumbing and Heating is facing the same issue. “The phone’s ringing off the hook looking for stuff to get done,” said Don’s brother, Steve Nerat, who said he is retired from the company. But the company doesn’t have the workers it needs to take care of customers.
The company hired one worker who decided to start his own plumbing and HVAC business in another area, Steve said. Another new hire didn’t work out. “We train people, and then they leave to go to Green Bay” or elsewhere, he said. “People don’t like this work. They don’t want to learn or get involved.”
Running a bagel shop also requires its own set of skills—and workers who don’t mind starting early.
The shop is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, but the baker starts at 5:30 a.m. to make the popular French toast bagels and cheddar bagels people stop in for, Beattie said. The bagels are baked daily on premises.
“I love this business,” said Beattie, who purchased it in 2006 after working there under three different owners. “When I started here as a baker, I wanted to have a business like this. I ate, dreamt and slept bagels.” The shop offers a variety of flavors, such as very berry, cinnamon raisin, pizza and Jalapeno cheddar.
But with five grandsons and a sixth grandchild on the way, Beattie said she wants to spend more time with her grandchildren and her husband, who retired six weeks ago. “I’d like to retire also so we can do things together,” she said. “I’m ready.” Beattie started working at Wildflower in 1999 as a baker and then as a manager before purchasing the store.
With seasonal workers leaving this week to return to school, Beattie said she and a manager are the only two workers left. “We’ll have to put up a sign: ‘Please be patient,’” she said. “We’ve had to do it in the past, and we’ll have to do it again if I don’t find help,” she said.
A “For Sale” sign stands in front of the shop, along with a “Help Wanted” sign. “You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to keep the doors open,” Kitkowski said.
Beattie said she wants to the business with the real estate. “I’m hoping it will be a turnkey for someone,” she said. “I’ll stay until they can figure the business out.”
Kitkowski attributed the labor shortage to COVID and the extra funds the government has provided, including a federal stipend for unemployed workers and a child tax credit.
At Nerat’s, Don Nerat plans to sell the real estate and the business. He said he is in the process of obtaining an appraisal. The store’s remaining plumbing merchandise will be offered in a closeout sale, Steve Nerat said.
“It got to be too big of a hassle to keep the business going,” he said. In October, Nerat’s posted a job listing on LinkedIn for a detail-oriented HVAC technician. The responsibilities listed included skills in installing, maintaining and repairing ventilation and air conditioning systems and “a willingness to continue education in the HVAC field.”
Don Nerat’s two sons were in line to take over the business and keep it going, but they declined, Steve said. One went to work for PHC (Plumbing, Heating and Cooling) and the other moved to Tennessee. “It’s not easy—especially now. Running a business is time-consuming. It’s a lot of effort and there’s a lot of responsibility.”
EagleHerald Staff Writer
MARINETTE—Advocate Aurora Health (AAH) said Friday in an email statement to the EagleHerald that it remains firm in its decision to require COVID-19 vaccinations among all its employees. AAH’s statement was in response to the Stephenson Island bridge rally Thursday protesting the mandate.
“We continue to believe that requiring vaccines for all our team members is the right thing to do to keep our patients, communities and each other safe and healthy,” the statement said. “We respect our team members’ rights to peaceful protest and at the same time our top priority is to provide high quality, safe care for our patients who depend on us.”
Other healthcare organizations have also voiced this position. The American Medical Association, for instance, published a press release July 26 calling for all healthcare and long-term care employers to require COVID vaccination among their employees.
“This is the logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment of all health care workers to put patients as well as residents of long-term care facilities first,” the release said.
The healthcare network’s decision to require vaccinations among its employees was spurred by an uptick in COVID cases across the country as well as increasing evidence as to the safety and effectiveness of COVID vaccines, according to the organization’s website.
Inpatient COVID hospitalizations in AAH facilities across Wisconsin have increased by over two times since the beginning of August, according to AAH.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WDHS) also reported a high COVID case activity in Marinette County between Aug. 4-17 with an increasing trend of infection.
Most deaths from COVID are now among unvaccinated individuals, according to the Associated Press. According to the latest updates from the WDHS Illness after Vaccination data webpage, individuals who are not fully vaccinated are nearly three times as likely to become infected compared to their vaccinated counterparts.
Even those who have already had COVID aren’t adequately protected by natural immunity; a recent study of previously infected individuals in Kentucky found that participants who were unvaccinated had 2.34 times the risk of reinfection compared to their fully vaccinated counterparts.
Nearly 3 million people in Wisconsin and 17,001 people in Marinette County are fully vaccinated, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows that about 171 million people have completed vaccination nationwide.
Various safety monitoring systems have collected data on vaccinated individuals. Among these systems is the smartphone-based tool v-safe After Vaccination Health Checker, which allows vaccinated individuals to report side effects.
V-safe also includes a Pregnancy Registry to monitor individuals who received the vaccine shortly before or during pregnancy. As of Aug. 16, 148,681 people have reported pregnancy through the v-safe checker, and 5,104 individuals have enrolled in the Pregnancy Registry, according to the CDC.
A preliminary study published in the New England Journal of Medicine analyzed data from pregnant individuals enrolled in v-safe as well as the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. The study did not find obvious safety concerns for pregnant participants who had received mRNA COVID vaccines, but noted that longer-term follow up is needed to fully understand the impacts.
The FDA’s approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Monday will likely lead to increased vaccination rates and vaccination mandates across the country, health officialss say.
EagleHerald Staff Writer
MENOMINEE—The City of Menominee’s Marijuana Rubric Scoring Committee announced scores for 26 applications from 14 companies Tuesday, with most companies submitting more than one application to open a marijuana shop. But some applicants said the committee didn’t address the problem with ambiguous language raised before the city council.
One company—Lume Cannabis Company/Attitude Wellness, Troy, Mich.—received a perfect score of 50 points on each of its two applications, one for a retail store for medical-use cannabis and a second for a recreational adult-use store.
Nine points separated Lume’s top score with the bottom-scoring applications. The Woods and Nu Group both had applications receiving 41 points.
While the rubric favored larger companies—those with more money and experience operating in a regulated industry—Attitude Wellness achieved its perfect score largely because its application apparently proposed improving an existing building and constructing a new facility.
The facilities issue was raised before the Menominee City Council at its most recent meeting, but the council declined to spend time explaining how the word “facility” was to be interpreted.
Logan Stauber, chief executive of Fire Station, which earned 46 points, said he had hoped the company’s application would receive a perfect score after the discussion about what the word “facility” meant in the sentence, “Applicant proposes to construct a new facility.”
“The city has made an administrative error,” said Stosh Wasik, owner at Fire Station. The scoring committee gave the company’s application zero points for new facility construction, when they intend to build a new portion at the site.
“We proposed new construction,” Stosh said. “I feel they’re not recognizing new construction.”
Stauber was hoping Tuesday’s meeting would provide time for deliberation. Applicants will have the opportunity to speak at a meeting Thursday at 9 a.m.
“We are eagerly awaiting our opportunity for an appeal on Thursday to have a discussion on how other applicants were awarded points and we were not,” Wasik said.
Lume received 12 points, the highest possible, for qualifications, including two points for “owning, operating or managing a business in a highly regulated industry for a minimum of one year,” while Nu Group lost those two points from the scoring committee for its retail application for 2350 10th St.
The reason for the deduction is that we did not feel the applicant demonstrated experience in a highly regulated industry,” Interim City Manager and Police Chief Brett Botbyl said after the qualification score was announced.
Nu Group also lost three points for proposing to operate with fewer than 15 full-time equivalent workers, and it didn’t earn a possible four points given to applicants proposing to construct a new facility. Nu Group’s 2900 10th St. application earned those four points.
The Woods, with a score of 41, lost points in “economic impact” because it doesn’t intend to hire at least 15 full-time equivalent workers, which would have provided three points. It lost six points because it doesn’t plan to use or improve an existing building.
Application scores are as follows:
Score Company Type of License
50 Lume/Attitude Wellness, retail license for medical use
50 Lume/Attitude Wellness, retail license for adult use
48 Rize, retail license for adult use
47 Agri-Med, retail license for medical use
47 Agri-Med, retail license for adult use
46 Fire Station, grow license for adult use
46 Fire Station, processing license for adult use
46 Fire Station, retail license for adult use
46 Wolfie’s, retail license for adult use
46 Yuma Way, retail license for adult use
45 Main Properties Wyld Skye, retail license for medical use
45 Main Properties Wyld Skye, retail license for adult use
45 Nu Group (2900 10th St.), retail license for adult use
44 Green Bronco, retail license for adult use
44 Green Bronco, retail license for medical use
44 Highwire, retail license for medical use
44 Highwire, retail license for adult use
44 Rize (1st Property Holdings), retail license for adult use
43 Green Pharm, retail license for medical use
43 Green Pharm, retail license for adult use
42 Higher Love Corp. retail license for adult use
42 Ottawa Innovations LLC, grow license for medical use
42 Ottawa Innovations LLC, grow license for adult use
41 The Woods, retail license for adult use
41 The Woods, retail license for medical use
41 Nu Group (2350 10th St.), retail license for adult use