Small business owners are facing something they never could have imagined just a few short weeks ago, but they are finding creative solutions in the face of adversity.

Marie Kirsch, owner of Knotty Pine Bakery, is serving customers with an online store, curbside pickup and options to arrange for delivery within 5 miles of the Laurel Street bakery.

This past weekend, Kirsch moved a step further with her first online learning event, creating a cookie decorating workshop as a way to connect with customers. For those staying in, it provided another option for something to do, link with others and all while staying in their homes.

Marie Kirsch, owner of Knotty Pine Bakery, talks about cookie dough as pastry chef Sarah Griffith holds the camera for a closer look during a Facebook live post Saturday, March 21, at Knotty Pine Bakery in downtown Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
Marie Kirsch, owner of Knotty Pine Bakery, talks about cookie dough as pastry chef Sarah Griffith holds the camera for a closer look during a Facebook live post Saturday, March 21, at Knotty Pine Bakery in downtown Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Kirsch created a sugar cookie baking kit, available for sale online and curbside pickup, complete with 12 already baked sugar cookies, two sets of sprinkles and two decorating bags pre-filled with icing. Saturday afternoon, March 21, Kirsch hosted the free online class where participants could decorate those cookies from the kit — a rabbit, a carrot and a flower — along with the bakery staff and learn baking and decorating tips.

Cookies and decorating supplies set out on a tray, ready to be decorated, Saturday March 21, during an online cookie baking class hosted by Knotty Pine Bakery in downtown Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey
Cookies and decorating supplies set out on a tray, ready to be decorated, Saturday March 21, during an online cookie baking class hosted by Knotty Pine Bakery in downtown Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey

Kirsch, in a phone interview before the Facebook Live event, said the kits were offered for sale all week at the online store and people could watch the event live or will be able to watch the recorded show later.

“We thought we’d give this a try,” Kirsch said of creating and posting an activity people could do and remain connected.

“People are still coming out and supporting small business,” Kirsch said, adding that support was so appreciated.

As the online workshop unfolded, people attending the event left messages and responded in real time. Facebook noted 53 people participated. Kirsch told viewers they were just there to have some fun in their first live event.

Pastry chef Sarah Griffith demonstrates frosting piping techniques Saturday, March 21, during a live cookie decorating class being streamed on Facebook and filmed at Knotty Pine Bakery in downtown Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
Pastry chef Sarah Griffith demonstrates frosting piping techniques Saturday, March 21, during a live cookie decorating class being streamed on Facebook and filmed at Knotty Pine Bakery in downtown Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“No matter what your cookie looks like you get to eat it at the end of the day,” Kirsch told the class.

A few blocks away, at The Traveling Art Pub on South Sixth Street, Sarah and Lisa Stawarski were working on kits for art projects and handing out the rescue pet kit bags for curbside pickup. The do-it-yourself handcrafted kits included a paper mache dog or cat to paint with 10% of sales to support the Babinski Foundation.

“Here at Traveling Art Pub, to support the community and keep things rolling and keep things creative at this time, we created the Traveling Art Pub DIY kits,” Sarah Stawarski said as she went over the kits in her shop Saturday afternoon. The Traveling Art Pub offered additional canvases, easels and paint. “We are just here to support the community and keep them creative and have some fun.”

Sarah Stawarski, Traveling Art Pub owner in Brainerd, said they are also delivering and looking at more options with additional do-it-yourself kits for curbside pickup or possibly online classes for painting sessions as the business navigates the changed economic reality of the coronavirus crisis. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch
Sarah Stawarski, Traveling Art Pub owner in Brainerd, said they are also delivering and looking at more options with additional do-it-yourself kits for curbside pickup or possibly online classes for painting sessions as the business navigates the changed economic reality of the coronavirus crisis. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

Stawarski, who created the business with her mom Lisa Stawarski, said they can’t thank the community enough for the support, including the turnout for the rescue pet kits.

“It gives me goosebumps,” Stawarski said. “... We have a strong community and lots of awesome followers and we appreciate that. … Of course, we were nervous at the beginning with all the news and we are just kind of keeping moving forward as much as we can and offering these kits and opportunities for the community.”

Stawarski said they are also delivering and looking at more options with additional kits for curbside pickup or possibly online classes for the TAP sessions, which typically bring in groups of people for a joint session with a teacher to paint a canvas. “We are going to do different themes to stay creative,” Stawarski said of the kits, including wood projects.

Sarah (left) and Lisa Stawarski prepare bagged do-it-yourself art project kits for curbside pickup at their Traveling Art Pub business in Brainerd. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch
Sarah (left) and Lisa Stawarski prepare bagged do-it-yourself art project kits for curbside pickup at their Traveling Art Pub business in Brainerd. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

Stawarski said the virtual classes are a little nerve-wracking, but that is something they are looking to offer to be there for customers. Often TAP events are hosted in area businesses, resorts, restaurants, bars, coffee shops and breweries, which are no longer available.

The bakery and TAP are among a host of businesses in the community looking at ways to be creative with curbside operations, delivery, pickup and ways to engage customers who are staying at home in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Stawarski said: “I think everyone’s, you know, ‘we are in it together’ and trying as much as we can to benefit from each other and help each other out.”

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Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchBizBuzz.