The main industry in Door County is tourism. New businesses are opening all the time, and they all need workers. Back in the day, students came up to work for the summer, but that source of help began to dry up, so businesses in Door County turned to other nations. They get J-1 students from other countries to come and work. The employers offer employee housing and often bicycles so that the students can get to and from work and around town.
The Bridges program came about when the churches in Northern Door County realized that the J-1 students were limited in their ability to get around or to see how American families live, so they set up American host families to “adopt” a student or two, invite them into their homes, and take them on outings so that they can see the beauty of Door County.
Then came COVID and last year most of the businesses were closed. Some of them went out of business as did businesses around the country. With the vaccinations, the businesses that survived were hoping to get back to business as usual this year. However, not all countries have successfully gotten COVID under control so only a few J-1 kids have been able to come this summer. Businesses have had to shorten their hours of operation, restaurants have had to cut down their menus, and hotels have had to close off some of the rooms they normally rent because there just isn’t enough help to do all the work.
Today I took Ashton to work with me in Fish Creek. Ashton got a free tour of the Noble House and then I cut Ashton loose with a bicycle to explore Fish Creek for the day. At noon, Ashton came back to the Noble House to have lunch with me. One of the shops Ashton had gone into was a place called Hat Head. They have a variety of hats one can buy and then choose a design to have embroidered on the hat. Ashton had ordered a hat before lunchtime and went back afterward to get the hat. In the process, Ashton got to talking with the owner and the owner asked Ashton to come and work there. Ashton told me later that it’s really easy to get a job here. Ashton filled out the application in our staff room, and after work, I drove Ashton to Hat Head to turn in the application. Ashton will still keep the housekeeping job at Pheasant Park part-time. On the days I work at the Noble House, Ashton will work at Hat Head which is a much easier job physically.
If you know anyone who wants a summer job, send them to Door County. They can be hired on the spot just about anywhere, and in fact, businesses will hire workers without meeting them or interviewing them because they are so desperate for help right now. It’s an unemployed person’s dream come true!