Businesses navigate a slowing pandemic

From left, Mark Carroll receives the latest update to his deep sea-themed leg sleeve tattoo from tattoo artist Rachelle Krischan at Skully’s Jedi Tattoo Parlor in Waukesha on Friday.


WAUKESHA — With the Wisconsin Supreme Court tossing out Gov. Tony Evers’ mask mandate and COVID-19 cases remaining low, local business owners are making decisions about their operations now and in the future.

At Rochester Deli in Waukesha, co-owner Dan Strackbein said staff members are still wearing masks the business is asking customers to do the same for the time being.

“If they don’t have one we’ll give them one,” he said, adding that once all staff are fully vaccinated, they might revisit their policy.

Strackbein said despite complications, business has been robust and is even picking up. The dine-in options are still at 50% capacity including both indoor and outdoor seating, but deli food is particularly well suited for to-go meals as well.

Strackbein sees some COVID-19-spurred changes sticking around in the future, such as the deli’s boxed lunch offerings for catering rather than platters, packaged utensils and bottled water rather than a water and ice station. “We want our customers to feel safe and secure when they come in,” he said.

Strackbein said Friday nights remain very busy, with the phone being turned off that night because of overload, so customers can order online or preorder instead. The main area of disruption is corporate catering, which he said has only recovered to about 10% of its pre-COVID level.

At Skully’s Jedi Tattoo Parlor in Waukesha, tattoo artist Rachelle Krischan said disruption to business was mostly during the first months of the pandemic when the establishment was shut down last spring.

She said it took “a lot of extra hours” in the morning and at night to make up for that shutdown and avoid putting clients on a half-year backlog. Only two customers opted to cancel appointments until after the pandemic is over.

Regarding day-to-day operations, Krischan said tattooing is already so heavy on sanitation that the only really new element is face masks, which are at this point are optional inside the business. “You have to wrap everything, you have to sterilize everything, and you do it over and over again,” she said.

Muskego Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Krisann Durnford said she hasn’t heard from any businesses with questions about adjustments to precautionary operations as the pandemic slows. “By and large, our community has supported our businesses’ decisions,” she said.

An invisible factor in the winding down of precautions and restrictions is the rising share of the population who have been vaccinated against COVID19, lowering the risk of exponential spread overall.

Some signs of normalcy are beginning to crop up at the local level. At The Steaming Cup coffee shop in Waukesha, the plexiglas barriers have come down. Rochester is actually making new hires, with one new cashier joining the crew and an opening still available for a delivery driver.

Some level of regional travel looks to be resuming as well. Krischan’s client for the day, Mark Carroll, made the drive from Chicago to get the latest set of work done on his deep sea-themed leg sleeve tattoo.

“It’s been a year and three months now,” he said as Krischan detailed an angler fish on his ankle. “We started right before COVID.”