Main Street Bounceback grants add life to Wisconsin communities
MADISON, WI. NOV. 27, 2021 – Across the state, more than 1,400 locally owned businesses are opening new brick-and-mortar locations with help from the Main Street Bounceback grant. Residents and visitors can check out many of these unique businesses and Shop Small Wisconsin throughout the holiday season and beyond.
“Wisconsin small businesses are the hearts of our communities, but they also have been some of the hardest hit during this pandemic and deserve all the support we can give them,” Governor Tony Evers said. “We’ve worked hard to get funds to tens of thousands of small business owners, and I want to encourage Wisconsinites to shop local this holiday season. We’re going to keep working to ensure our state’s economic recovery, and supporting our small businesses is an important part of making sure our Main Streets, communities, and state bounce back from this pandemic even better and stronger than before.”
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes and other members of the governor’s cabinet are traveling across the state today to visit a number of small businesses – particularly those that received the Main Street Bounceback grant. The Main Street Bounceback grant program, which runs through June 2022, offers $10,000 grants to businesses and nonprofits that move into or expand into a currently vacant Wisconsin commercial property.
“These small business owners need our support as they celebrate their first holiday season in their new spaces,” said Missy Hughes, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation secretary and CEO. “Time and again, we’ve seen how the health of our communities is intertwined with the success of Wisconsin’s small businesses. These businesses not only employ our neighbors and provide us with necessities, these are the places where communities gather.”
From a veteran-owned martini bar in Washburn to a barber shop in Prairie du Chien, the businesses opening with help from the Bounceback grants are adding new life to their communities.
“It’s like a dream to be on Main Street,” said Monica Lara, who opened her jewelry shop Argentum et Aurum in downtown Fond du Lac with help from the Main Street Bounceback grant. “My shop is magical.”
When shoppers choose to spend their money at small businesses, they’re sharing a little bit of magic with the whole community, Hughes said. On average, 67 cents of every dollar spent at a local business stays in the community, according to a study by American Express.
For those who don’t want to leave the comfort of home to shop, WEDC has created a guide to Wisconsin’s unique small businesses with links that allow for online shopping. Go to: mainstreetwi.com.
Those who do want to venture out, however, may find some wonderful surprises – everything from jewelry made from the game-winning ball to candles that try to capture the essence of Lambeau Field.
Hughes will be visiting businesses in Prairie du Chien and Janesville while WEDC Deputy Secretary and COO Sam Rikkers will be visiting Rice Lake and Cumberland. In Milwaukee, Department of Safety and Professional Services Secretary Dawn Crim and Department of Natural Resources Secretary Preston Cole will be visiting diverse-owned businesses in the Historic King Drive Business Improvement District. Department of Workforce Development Secretary Amy Pechacek will be shopping in Port Washington while Department of Children and Families Secretary Emilie Amundson will be visiting Main Street Bounceback businesses in Monroe. Department of Tourism Deputy Secretary Maria Van Hoorn will be visiting downtown businesses in Menomonie.
In Prairie du Chien, Crystal Priebe has been taking some time off from making her signature chocolates. Instead, she’s been making giant gummy bears out of resin to prepare for the opening of her new, larger Sweet Tooth candy store.
“There’s going to be an interactive element to the new candy store,” Priebe said, explaining that the large gummy bears will be used to measure the height of visitors. The store will also feature an interactive candy quiz and magnetic puzzle.
But for Priebe the best feature of her new space is definitely the kitchen. Before she moved to the larger store, the Sweet Tooth’s homemade confections had to be made at a commercial kitchen off site. Now Priebe and her husband, Brian, will be making homemade chocolates from Priebe’s mom’s recipe, English toffee and more on site. And the store will still carry some non-traditional treats including beer-flavored cotton candy and some uniquely flavored sodas like bacon and dill pickle.
“Ranch dressing is one of our more popular ones,” Priebe said. “That surprised us. We’ve tried them all. Most of them taste better than I was expecting.”
In Waupaca, Andrew Colden makes dozens of attempts to perfect scents for his candles, bath and home products. He started Wanderlust Scents – designed to capture destinations in scent form — in 2015 but this is the first time he’s had a physical store.
“The community is just amazing,” Colden said. “It’s just non-stop traffic.”
He’s already noticing some differences. Online, his bestselling scent is Old Havana. But at the shop where customers can smell each destination the most popular are Baileys Harbor and Rocky Mountains. But his newest destination scent is also proving popular – Lambeau.
“It’s not going to smell like Aaron Rodgers’ sweat,” Colden said. “I think of Lambeau and I just play off that – grass, footballs so leather, autumn spicy fall pumpkin scents.”
In Galesville, Kelly Gardner is excited to welcome customers in for her first holiday season at Create Happy. Create Happy is a jewelry shop that specializes in turning used materials into jewelry. Gardner has turned everything from old purses to footballs into keepsake jewelry.
“We take something broken and make it whole and beautiful again,” she said. “The business has always been called Create Happy and that is always my goal – to create happy for myself and for other people.”