HOLLAND TWP. — A local business, faced with mandated state closure during the most profitable portion of its season, found a way to give back to the community last week.


Nelis’ Dutch Village is an annual home to thousands of tulips, meant to be seen by thousands of visitors during Tulip Time.


But this year, the flowers were enjoyed only by employees. When their peak ended, owner Joe Nelis decided to change that.


“Every year, we plant new tulip bulbs in the fall,” Nelis said. “And then, when the tulips are done blooming and start on the next phase of their life cycle, we dig them up. This year, we thought we’d start the process, put the tulips out and let people know they could have some for free.”


The limit was set to three bags per person. On the first day — Wednesday, May 20 — hundreds showed up to collect their tulips.


“It kind of snowballed on us and created quite a stir,” Nelis said. “Some wonderful people asked if we would accept donations for the bulbs to try to help us out. We thought we could use the tulips for Tulip Time. So, we’re donating all of the money we collected to the festival.”


Within two days, more than half of the tulips were gone. It was the most visitors Nelis saw all season.


“It’s been pretty tough,” he said. “I’m not gonna lie. We’re watching and researching and reading and hoping the governor will allow us to get to a point where we can be open and implement the things we’re planning to do to keep people safe. That includes limiting capacity and more cleaning and trying to keep people socially distant. We’ll have a reduced number of attractions and activities.”


Even if the amusement park can reopen this season, it has already taken a severe financial hit.


“Our year-to-date revenue is down 95 percent,” Nelis said. “Are we going to make that up? No. Did we borrow money? Yes. We’ve replaced revenue with that, which isn’t ideal. The money we were loaned by the federal government has to be used as payroll. When you’re not open as an amusement park, you’re paying people to stay home.”


So, Nelis decided to open as many areas of the park as possible.


“We opened our gift shop for curbside delivery,” he said. “We opened our cafe for takeout. And since we’ve always sold Dutch food items, we’ve opened up one of our retail stores. We’ve had people coming in to get cookies and chocolates and licorice. And honestly, it’s a way for us to move forward — to try to keep moving in the right direction.


“We’re hopeful we can get open. And, if we do, we’re hopeful people will trust us with their time and that we’ll operate in a safe manner.”