On Oct. 9, Silos Fun Park opened its arcade for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Silos Fun Park, which began operations under new ownership on March 3, now serves the public from 4 p.m. to closing on weekdays and during regular business hours on Saturday and Sunday.
Silos Fun Park, which previously ceased operations in 2015, was purchased for $345,000 in August 2019 by Donna Olmstead, owner of the Cottage Inn Pizza in Hillsdale. Olmstead has owned the Cottage Inn Pizza franchise in Hillsdale since 2015.
Late fall, construction started. It consisted of an extension off Silos Fun Park arcade, including a smaller, more manageable kitchen and a larger dining hall space. “The restaurant is bigger to allow for parties,” Olmstead said.
The construction finished in late February, and both the Silos Fun Park arcade and Cottage Inn Pizza opened on March 3. Business boomed upon opening.
“We were open for two weeks before it got shut down,” Olmstead said. “We set records for this Cottage Inn branch those two weeks, so we know what the potential is.”
Nevertheless, just a couple of weeks later, they were forced to close the arcade and the dining hall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite this setback, the pizza side of the business carried on, but in a different fashion.
“Because we are pizza and we are used to carry out and delivery, it wasn’t anything for us to continue business as usual,” Olmstead said. “What surprised us the most was the amount of people still wanting delivery, because we thought that people wouldn’t want to take the chance of having drivers come to their house.”
In order to mitigate the anxiety of guests, Cottage Inn switched to “contactless delivery,” which allowed guests to pay remotely and have items dropped off without any contact with the delivery driver. Cottage Inn has taken a similar approach to curbside pickup, where customers pay ahead and receive their meals without getting out of their vehicles. These measures continue to the present.
In addition, to abide by the governor’s executive orders, sanitation has greatly increased. Gloves are now used for drivers and cashiers rather than just those in the kitchen.
Such measures were not without a cost, as sanitation prices rose during the pandemic.
“I used to be able to get a box of gloves from our supplier for $11,” Olmstead said. “Recently, for the same style gloves without shipping, I spent $23.”
Food prices have also increased during the shutdown.
Nevertheless, these increases are being absorbed right now.
“In our minds, as a corporation, we think that there must be an end to this soon,” Olmstead said.
The dining hall reopened in August, with seating capacity limited to 50 people and groups of 10 or less. Cottage Inn must serve food on paper plates and have single-service utensils and condiments.
On the other hand, Silos Fun Park did not have the initial success they anticipated.
“When we saw what was going to happen, we decided we are not going to put the money in this year,” she said.
Instead, Olmstead focused on getting the mini-golf course, bumper boats, and go-cart in prime condition, as they had all been lacking service over the last five years.
Even with these disappointments, Silos Fun Park was able to open its outdoor attractions in July.
Hillsdale College students said they enjoy the renovated outdoor fun park a lot.
Sophomore Will McIntosh said he went to Silos in September.
“It’s very accessible,” McIntosh said. “It’s the best off-campus entertainment for the price.”
Sophomore Gabe Gainar also expressed praise for its affordability.
“It was very cheap for what they had to offer,” Gainar said.
While this year consisted of mostly renovation, prior expansion plans have not been abandoned. Olmstead has reached out to the city to renovate the grain elevator and silos connected to the park. In the end, she qualified for a tax abatement for a restoration.
“We are looking at ways that we can put added attractions on the inside, so it will be open for all seasons,” she said.
“But until we get a really good handle on what coronavirus means for us now, we are still exploring that.”