For Konditorei, pandemic layers on challenges as business opens and closes

Gerry Frank’s Konditorei plans to open again on Monday, Aug. 17 – the pandemic willing. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

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“I’m getting a little irritated by this whole thing,” said Linae Sielicky, co-owner of Gerry Frank’s Konditorei.

She spent months planning an expansion of her cake shop, only to endure an in-person dining ban in March due to Covid.

Now, the pandemic has forced yet another business disruption.

Konditorei, located at 310 Kearney St. S.E., in Salem, serves salads, sandwiches, cookies, and tarts. But the glass display cases lined with cakes such as Raspberry Lemonade and Afterschool are the main draw, Sielicky said.

An expansion would make those sweet treats easier to store, see, and buy.

In June 2019, Sielicky and her business partners, Mike and Valerie Linea of the Lovin’ Oven, bought adjacent space, intending to remodel and expand display and food storage space.

When Covid struck and sit-down dining stopped, the team saw the chance to put those plans in play. Remodeling is dusty, loud work that’s not conducive to enjoying cake.

“We were going to close for a week anyway to remodel, and then this happened,” she said. “We decided to just shut it all down and do it right.”

The shop closed on March 23, and contractors, electricians, and plumbers took over. The 2,200-square-foot addition contains food storage space, an ADA-compliant bathroom, and more customer seating. The purchase also opens the way for a kitchen remodel the team hoped to begin in 2021.

“It might not look like a lot of room out front, but we added about 20-some new seats,” Sielicky said.

Konditorei reopened on May 27 but only for order pickups and curbside delivery. So far, due to state-wide mandates and ongoing infection concerns, Sielicky hasn’t used her added capacity for sit-down dining.

“We have a line out of the door constantly. We can only have 25 people in here at a time, and the way our tables are set up six feet apart, we can only have 20 people sitting in here. It’s not wise to have 20 people sitting inside for an hour when a lot of people are getting things to go,” she said.

Though the expanded indoor seating went unused, Konditorei on June 17 started sit-down service with tables outside.

“When we started back, I was shocked at how busy we were. I thought we were going to be really slow, because so many people are struggling. But that just didn’t happen,” Sielicky said.

A week later, new state orders required customers to wear a mask when inside.

Only one customer has complained, but it’s an incident Sielicky remembers well.

A customer refused to wear a mask, and Sielicky tried to commiserate. She doesn’t enjoy wearing masks, but she does so to comply with state requirements.

“I pulled my mask down to say, ‘Look what it does to my face!’ And she just blew up at me, and she walked out the door,” she said.

An hour later, that customer called Sielicky to complain about the incident. She threatened a lawsuit, and she mentioned filing a complaint with the Governor’s office. The threats didn’t materialize, but the comments stung.

“I was flabbergasted and so upset,” Sielicky said. “It’s just a struggle on certain things that people do or don’t want to do.”

Sielicky thought mask mandates would remain her most challenging Covid concern. But on July 21, her business partners from the Lovin’ Oven called with bad news.

An employee tested positive for coronavirus. The entire staff faced a mandatory quarantine for two weeks, and Konditorei had to close, left without its source of cakes.

Since most customers come for the cake, she couldn’t stay open without her steady supply of sweets.

The shop was to open Aug. 7 when Lovin’ Oven expected to be back in operation, but then another Lovin’ Oven employee tested positive for the coronavirus. The Lovin’ Oven team isn’t cleared to return to work by the county until Friday, Aug. 14. Konditorei now plans to open on Monday, Aug. 17. Konditorei will be open from Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“It’s very frustrating,” Sielicky said. “But you just have to laugh at it a little bit and go with the flow, I guess. People are in worse condition than we are.”

Konditorei will reopen for takeout and curbside delivery. Outside seating will be available, weather permitting. If you hope to visit the shop to pick out your treats in person, plan ahead.

“If people want to come in, they have to wear a mask. If they don’t want to, we’re happy to offer curbside delivery. And we do a lot of that,” Sielicky said.

Konditorei was opened by Gerry Frank and Barney Rodgers in 1982. The connection with the Lovin’ Oven was present from the very start. In 1991, the Schultz family bought that bakery and continued to work with Konditorei.

Sielicky started working at the shop in 1998 as an assistant manager. She, along with the Schultz family, bought the business from Frank in 2017.

“We make good business partners. I run this, and they run the bakery,” she said.

Sielicky hopes plenty of Salem residents with a sweet tooth will visit the shop and support the work.

“If you think about it, we’re not essential. But if you’re a cake lover, we are,” she said.

Gerry Frank’s Konditorei plans to open again on Monday, Aug. 17 – the pandemic willing. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

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