LECHEE, Ariz. – As the deadly novel coronavirus spreads across the globe, events being put on hold while some offices and businesses are shuttering altogether, there is a ray of hope in the Page-Lake Powell area amid the outbreak.
Ken’s Tours’ Catching Dreams café, coffee shop, and gift shop are still open even after the Navajo Nation on Thursday closed all of its tribal parks and recreation areas, which impacted Ken’s Tours, Dixie Ellis’ Lower Antelope Canyon Tours, Carolene Ekis’ Antelope Canyon Tours, Tádídíín Tours’ Antelope Canyon X, and Adventurous Antelope Canyon Tours.
“We kind of anticipated they would be closing once we started seeing events being shut down and schools being closed,” said Michelle Monroe, the human resource director at Ken’s Tours, her family’s business. “We knew tourism would be affected, so we started asking questions and making preparations.”
Ken’s Tours has a total of 90 employees, a majority of whom are Diné, and are still on the payroll.
“They have not been let off,” Monroe said. “We still have everyone on payroll currently. We do have some meetings on Monday with (Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation) and with some advisors. After that, we have a staff meeting on Tuesday, when we will let them (employees) what the plan is going to be.
“But we have everybody’s interest and heart in mind. And we’re going to do the best we can and make the best decision for the business and for our employees.”
Monroe said before the Lake Powell Tribal Park shutdown, Ken’s Tours did 18 tours a day, providing tours to about 1,000 people from across the world.
“And we were just peaking at that when we were asked to close down,” Monroe explained. “Although the tours are closed, we have a business site lease with the Navajo Nation at Ken’s Tours building, (in which) we have a coffee shop (Catching Dreams Coffee Shop), we have the Catching Dreams Gift Shop, and the Catching Dreams Café. So, all three are up and running.”
Because these three shops are running, Monroe said they allow employees to keep working during the shutdown.
“We’re using single-item use in the coffee shop, so we’re taking some of those measures to keep the health and safety in mind for the customers (who) visit us and also for our employees,” Monroe said about Ken’s Tours taking preventative measures in response to COVID-19.
Navajo Taco, Navajo Burger, Bacon and Blue Cheeseburger, Serrano Burger, Garden Burger, and BLT are on the menu at the café. All burgers come with a side of fries or onion rings, and a pickle, said Monroe.
“Right now, we’re keeping with our simple, basic menu,” she said. “Usually, we’re doing some sort of special every day––just kind of exploring. We also have a soup of the day, which changes every day. We also do breakfast (as a trial) and we’re also doing lunch.”
The No. 1 seller is the Navajo Taco, said Monroe, adding that the Navajo Burger and the BLT are also delicious.
The nearby Antelope Point Marina on Friday also announced its business will stay open amid fears of COVID-19, inviting visitors to visit Lake Powell and to rent a houseboat or a watercraft from the marina.
“It’s a hope, because … if we do layoffs, that’s a lot of people,” Monroe said about Ken’s Tours. “We want to be able to carry them for a period of time. We have to talk to our advisors and see what’s best for the company. So, we’re doing different things like this to kind of keep that payroll going for people.”
Monroe added, “Our coffee shop is really amazing. We have an espresso machine there. They (baristas) do a lot of specialty drinks and they’re really versatile in the stuff they have available.”
Ken's Tours is located on Indian Route 222. Information: lowerantelope.com