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First Main Street Mini-Makeover Contest winner unveils new look

June 7, 2021
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The Sow’s Ear in Verona reimagines indoor dining for Sow’s Ear Pantry

MADISON, WI. June 7, 2021 – The Sow’s Ear in downtown Verona unveiled their new look today following the completion of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s (WEDC’s) inaugural Main Street Mini-Makeover Contest.

The yarn and coffee shop has been an anchor in downtown Verona since it opened in 2000. Since that time, the shop has transitioned to new ownership and expanded both its physical space and product offerings to accommodate a growing customer base.

During the pandemic, the shop converted its indoor dining area into the Sow’s Ear Pantry, featuring locally sourced and crafted food items and artisan goods. Winning the Mini-Makeover contest provided an opportunity for the business to re-evaluate its interior layout as it welcomed back customers for inside dining.

The Wisconsin Main Street staff and team from Milwaukee-based Retailworks Inc. have been working with the Sow’s Ear for several months to plan improvements that will help customers discover everything that The Sow’s Ear has to offer, and to extend the store’s crafty vibe into the Pantry shop and dining area. Included in the makeover are updated color schemes, enhanced merchandising of Pantry items, improved sales area for the yarn and crafting department, coordinated and enhanced signage highlighting new and unique items, wayfinding and directional signage and many other small touches to welcome customers into the space.

The Mini-Makeover is an outgrowth of the popular Main Street Makeover contest, now in its sixth year.

“This unique contest not only provides additional support and services to the winning business, but it also highlights the benefits of the Wisconsin Main Street Program, which has resulted in the creation of more than 2,800 new businesses and 15,000 new jobs in Wisconsin since its inception in 1987,” said Missy Hughes, WEDC secretary and CEO. “A vibrant downtown is critical to the overall economic health of a community and recognizing and assisting the small businesses that make these districts thrive is a key part of the work WEDC does.”

While the larger makeover project requires a substantial outlay of funds and generally involves a full-scale remodel of the winning business inside and out, the Mini-Makeover highlights the transformation that can occur through thoughtful improvements within a limited budget.

The total cost of improvements for The Sow’s Ear transformation was less than $5,000. Studies show that even small changes can draw customers and encourage spending.

“It’s amazing how often small changes cause people to take notice and try out a business for the first time,” Hughes said.

The transformation at The Sow’s Ear took place in a one-day all-hands-on-deck timeline. Except for some background painting and outsourced printing, staff from the business, WEDC and Retailworks carried out the transformation in preparation of a 5 p.m. reopening media event. This allowed the business to be closed to customers for only one day and ready to serve their regular coffee customers the next morning.

“We’re excited to show off the new space to our regular customers tomorrow and just in time for our participation in Worldwide Knit in Public Day next weekend,” said Sow’s Ear Manager Jen Davis. “We’re so grateful for the program, which provided the incentive we needed to make the decision to update our space. The team provided so many great ideas for us to consider that will improve the customer experience.”

The contest is designed to raise awareness of the Wisconsin Main Street Program and Connect Communities Program, which are the two downtown revitalization initiatives overseen by WEDC. The programs provide support and training for communities and organizations dedicated to downtown revitalization efforts. Verona has been a member of the Connect Communities program since 2015. The Makeover programs are just one example of many programs designed to foster business and community engagement and showcase the businesses that bring life to downtown districts.

“The Sow’s Ear is an anchor to our downtown business district,” said Halley Jones of the Verona Area Chamber of Commerce. “During the past year, they have worked really hard to serve their customers by adding more retail products to their space on Main Street. The Mini-Makeover program is a well-deserved recognition of the tremendous value they bring to the community.”

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