By Hayley Crandall
Sherman Phoenix is no stranger to hard times.
Born out of a fire damaged BMO Harris Bank, the building became a symbol for rebirth in the Sherman Park neighborhood after 2016 protests ravaged the area in response to a fatal police shooting.
The space now holds 27 businesses ranging from an ice cream shop, to a hair salon and even a yoga studio. A variety of events for the community such as entrepreneurship or dance classes have taken place at the Sherman Phoenix since its opening.
“It’s like a city inside of the city,” said Clyde Anderson, Sherman Phoenix general manager. “It’s our own community. It’s been a refuge for many.”
But just four years after initially forming, Sherman Phoenix faces another unimaginable obstacle for the community: the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to implemented government orders and guidelines issued by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the center closed to protect customers and businesses. This put tenants in an unpredictable situation.
Many food shops within Sherman Phoenix were able to adapt to these changes. They began offering curbside pickup or carry out for orders, something that could work as a permanent feature, according to Jan Anderson director of Programming and Events.
“We are dedicating space in our parking lot for curbside,” said Jan Anderson. “While it is temporary, if this is a viable business for the vendors, this could be something we offer long-term.”
One food vendor added a new aspect to their business during this time, beyond just food pick-up.
Funky Fresh Spring Rolls began selling frozen spring rolls, making them able to be transported home and heated up any time. This has been a pretty big success for the food vendor and has been incorporated as a new business avenue.
“It made more sense to do with everyone being at home,” said TrueMan McGee, Funky Fresh Spring Rolls owner. “We sell them frozen and hot and want to work them into grocery stores.”
“It’s about rolling with the punches,” he added.
Changes for Sherman Phoenix span beyond the business side. Physical aspects in the food hall are being planned as well. While it’s too soon to declare anything permanent or short-term, seating areas have already been removed and there’s hopes of bringing in Plexiglass as a pre-caution.
They have even gone the extra step of creating a new “greeter” position as a way to welcome customers to the changes and flow in the new set-up. It’s another component of trying things out, said Clyde Anderson.
But as far as Sherman Phoenix business policies go, nothing yet has been securely implemented, said Clyde Anderson. A real struggle they face is deciding where to begin with the reopening of businesses and the steps needed to take to get there and safely. It’s something that he has described as “trial and error.”
“It’s been sort of learn as you go. It’s one of those things where you look at best practices,” said Clyde Anderson. “The government has passed down some things, but us as a business have had to create our own policies.”
One thing is certain with Sherman Phoenix, tenants are just as eager as their customers for the reopening but making sure it’s safe for everyone is the first step, as circumstances create a new normal.
“People are waiting for us to open, that energy is still there. That is very much still alive.” said Jan Anderson. “We’re definitely going to come back from this. We’re a family, we’ll make sure we all come back.”