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Okoboji resorts, businesses adapt amid coronavirus

Memorial Day weekend would normally bring thousands to Lake Okoboji to get away for the holiday. But because of COVID-19, numbers are way down, and so is money.

OKOBOJI, Iowa — Picture this: a warm, sunny day at a bustling Lake Okoboji, crowded boats on the water, along with thousands of happy people celebrating a three-day holiday weekend.

Oh, if only.

A normal year at Okoboji would look a little something like that.  But because of the coronavirus pandemic, numbers are way down, and some businesses are struggling.

The Fillenwarth Beach Resort has been a staple at Okoboji for over a century.  Normally, it's hard to find a room there for Memorial Day weekend.  Now, it's hard to fill one.

"Okoboji is a real special place, and we want everybody to have a chance to enjoy it," owner Lynn Fillenwarth said.  "COVID-19 has been quite a challenge for us."

The 96-unit resort has faced a lot of cancellations, and even taking safety precautions has caused them to lose revenue.

Instead of a 50-person maximum on their boats, the max has plunged all the way down to 9.  Fillenwarth says that makes things more expensive.

Furthermore, the resort has had to spend extra time training staff members to deeply sanitize all rooms and common areas.

But it's not just FIllenwarth Resort that's having to adapt.  

Bungalow 29 is a small women's boutique that relies on shipments of high-end beachwear from the coasts, which the owner says has caused problems.

"Many of my brands are made or manufactured in New York or L.A.," owner and operator Amy Zahradinik said.  "They have had to cancel deliveries because the factories are simply not making clothing right now."

For those who do come through her store, Zahradinik says she cleans everything, from the dressing rooms to the pens used to sign credit cards.  She even cleans off the credit cards themselves.

As these beachy business owners work hard to make your getaway safe, they want you to know that they're ready to welcome you with enthusiasm - and with safety.

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