By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — COVID-19 has many small businesses struggling to stay afloat. St. Mane in south Minneapolis is the oldest independent sporting good store in Minnesota.

It was facing the same struggles as other retailers.

WCCO’s Reg Chapman explains how an idea for a t-shirt kept the business open and is now helping other businesses do the same.

Since 1962, St. Mane Sporting Goods has sold letterman jackets and all that comes with high school, college and professional sport but COVID-19 shut that down.

“With Minneapolis and St. Paul schools closing and the fall sports — especially football — closing we don’t know if we will make it past the first of the year,” said Bob St. Mane.

But his daughter suggested he stay strong, Minnesota strong, and he did just that by producing a t-shirt.

People started buying the Minnesota Strong COVID-19 2020 shirts and sweatshirts.

“It did so well that we decided to give checks out to some other small businesses to help them survive,” St. Mane said.

St. Mane has given money to Viddle and Joe in Hackensack, Wildcats Bar and Grill in Eagan and Nikomis Coffee in south Minneapolis.

He has given away more than $17,000 dollars but he wanted to help a business in north Minneapolis.

“I got a good friend that works for KMOJ names Charlie Dillon and he suggested this gentleman,” said St. Mane.

KMOJ radio personality Chaz Millionaire thought about Brian Davis, a master barber in north Minneapolis who has given free haircuts to kids, helped single parents and send young men to barber school.

“He doesn’t know he’s getting it until we get there,” said St. Mane.

Davis had to shut down for 10 weeks and was denied help from the small business association. He feels honored to receive such a gift and thankful it’s his work in the community that sparked such a blessing.

“When you are living in that community and it’s there are things that need to be done you just do what needs to be done,” said Brian Davis owner of Old School Barber Shop.

St. Mane will continue to give proceeds from the selling of Minnesota Strong shirts to keep this fellowship amongst business owners going.

“You’re not just supporting mine your supporting other small businesses that you are giving checks to, “ St. Mane said.

St. Mane also helped three silk screen companies that printed the t-shirts. He says he must continue to sell them in order for his business and others to stay afloat during the pandemic.

If you want to be a part of the Minnesota Strong team click here.

Reg Chapman