OGDEN — The COVID-19 pandemic has proven deadly to some businesses, unable to contend with the drop in traffic brought on by the virus’s spread.
It’s caused many others to scale back their operations and tighten their belts to deal with the pandemic fallout — a dip in sales due to guidelines meant to keep the virus in check that also curtail public activity.
For Kaleb Kidman and Jenny Guzman, though, the pandemic is serving as the backdrop to their introduction to the business world. They signed the lease on the space in downtown Ogden for their new crepe business, La Crepe OG, just before the pandemic struck in earnest last March, nearly a year ago. Unable to get out of the deal after the virus started wreaking havoc, they’ve made a go of it.
“We already saw other businesses that were established 20 years struggling,” said Kidman, recalling the jitters as he, fiancee Guzman and Guzman’s family launched the business, located at 2411 Kiesel Ave.
But they’ve forged ahead, and though things have been rocky at times, they’re managing and they remain hopeful, though they don’t have much choice. “It’s like a roller coaster. You have your ups and downs,” said Kidman, a business student at Weber State University, like Guzman.
Guzman, 21, said the key to success at this stage seems to be persistence. Kidman, 20, spoke more practically — success is about finding a market niche and bringing people through the doors. “Finding your market, finding a way to keep them engaged,” he said.
Either way, they’re getting a crash course in business management. The Ben Lomond High School grads launched the business in part to help with their college bills and to put what they’re learning at Weber State to practical use, even as they handle a full-time load of courses. And the turn of events shows that the pandemic doesn’t have to be just about hunkering down, biding your time and waiting for a sunnier day.
“At the beginning, it was really rough,” Kidman said.
But thanks to their social media marketing efforts and their unique offerings — the crepe market is pretty wide open in the Ogden area — they’re gradually getting some traction. Their unique “freak shakes” — gravity-defying concoctions variously made of ice cream, donuts, churros and other sugary ingredients — also draw in customers, some from as far away as Park City and Salt Lake City.
“The only way to get noticed is if you have something crazy,” Kidman said.
Though many businesses have suffered as the pandemic has lingered on, Guzman and Kidman aren’t alone in trying to forge a new destiny as the economy, for many, remains uncertain.
Ron Yeates, operator of No Frills Diner at 449 W. 12th St., is planning a move to new digs on Historic 25th Street in the spring sometime, to the space on the ground floor of the building at the southwest corner of 25th Street and Lincoln Avenue. Hearth on 25th fills the second-story space there.
“Business hasn’t been bad. We’re actually doing alright,” he said.
The acquisition of the 12th Street property where the restaurant now sits by a nearby medical manufacturing company to make way for that firm’s expansion forced Yeates’ hand. No Frills plans to close at its current location on Feb. 26, moving to the 25th Street spot sometime in the spring, pending finalization of the permitting process with the city. “I’m really excited about it, but also nervous. It’s a great location,” Yeates said.
Likewise, though no one is publicly saying anything, the space at the southwest corner of 25th Street and Grant Avenue, former home to a Mexican restaurant, has been undergoing a transformation in recent weeks, seemingly in anticipation of something.
CULINARY CREATIVITY, DRIVEThe featured offerings at La Crepe OG are the crepes, both sweet and savory. Guzman’s father, Gerardo Guzman, who ran a crepe restaurant and cafe in Mexico before transplanting to Ogden, helped with the recipes and also helps run the locale. There are crepes with mangoes, bananas and berries as well as others with ham, pepperoni, chicken and eggs.
“We took the family tradition and modernized it,” Kidman said.
Guzman and Kidman also offer “bubble” waffles, paninis and a range of drinks. The many freak shakes, though, are perhaps La Crepe OG’s most distinctive offering. The maple bacon shake features donuts, french toast and bacon. The red velvet shake features sugar cookies and red velvet cake.
That sort of culinary creativity combined with their drive, Guzman and Kidman hope, will yield results. “We are working really hard and I don’t think there’s a single place that does shakes like that in Utah,” Kidman said.