The lakes area has certainly felt the economic pinch of the state and federal response to COVID-19. For one, the Young Athletes Reaching Dreams (YARD) south of Pequot Lakes was forced to close permanently after being required to sit out what would have been their busy season.

"We had been open 10 months before the governor shut us down right at what would have been our busy season," said Pamela Johnson, who owned the business with her husband. "We were (forced to close) right when we were just getting started."

The building did not remain empty for long, however. Tiny Sprouts Daycare, formerly located in the same building as Tasty Pizza North, has taken up residence there.

"After COVID, things obviously changed and, unfortunately for the owners of this facility, it didn't work out," Kara Super-Peterson said. "My landlord asked if I would be interested in moving over here. It was set up for batting cages and whatnot, so we came over and looked at the space and found out that it was going to be absolutely perfect. We decided, why not? It's a scary time, but this is going to be something positive that comes out of the negativity right now."

Though nobody is happy about the loss of a business, there's no denying that staff and owners at Tiny Sprouts looked forward to the Sept. 1 opening of their daycare center in a space featuring at least an additional 1,000 square feet of space.

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"I am able to take in an additional 10 children," Super-Peterson said.

She describes the space as a tight-knit, family-oriented daycare center with considerable focus on nature. That focus will be displayed in the various rooms bedecked with paintings of trees, the hallway, painted with a river, and the playground featuring nature themed equipment.

Heather Northenscold, Kara Super-Peterson and Jen Parry decorate the new Tiny Sprouts Daycare Center in southern Pequot Lakes. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal
Heather Northenscold, Kara Super-Peterson and Jen Parry decorate the new Tiny Sprouts Daycare Center in southern Pequot Lakes. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

"It's going to be a nature playground with stumps and hopefully a slide built into a hill and a lot of grassy area and a mud kitchen for kids to play with," Super-Peterson said. "But with lots of trees. We're really based on Tiny Sprouts nature. From the ground up that's always been what I've said."

The new, expanded space will also allow them to better serve customers who aren't ready to send their children back to school, but who also can't stay home for distance learning.

"Parents still need to work and you don't ever know if the school's going to have to close down again," Super-Peterson said. "Having a nice, clean, quiet space for them to learn is great."

In addition, space that was formerly used for indoor athletic training by YARD will now be used for bad weather recreation for the daycare children.

"I have a big indoor playing gym," Super-Peterson said.

There's also a larger preschool room, a distance learning space, a nature center and other amenities.

Super-Peterson has operated a daycare center for the past 11 years after changing her career from being a certified chef to being a childcare provider. At the time, she made the change at least in part for her son. The opportunity to take over his daycare, then called Learn and Play Daycare, came up and Super-Peterson has owned Tiny Sprouts ever since.

They are a Parent Aware Daycare. More information can be found at tinysproutsdaycarecenter.com.

The Johnsons don't have business plans at this moment; however, they still have their equipment from the YARD and are keeping an open mind.

Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.