Downtown Minocqua storefronts fill in with new and established businesses
The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is generally considered the busy holiday shopping season.
But for some downtown areas in the Northwoods, we’re now in the slow season.
“It’s very difficult here. It’s very tourist-dependent,” said Sarah Hoban. She owns Isabella’s Boutique in downtown Minocqua.
In August, she moved her store from one of the side streets of downtown to the main drag.
She says moving just a couple of blocks has made a huge difference.
“Unfortunately, even though it’s just a half a block down the street, people just don’t think about it. They don’t go down those side streets as much. Being a retail location it’s important to be up in the visible area, said Hoban.
Moving into the new storefront made Hoban eligible for the Main Street Bounceback Grant.
Her boutique is one of ten businesses in Minocqua to receive the funding, which are just a handful of the nearly 7,200 small businesses statewide that got grants. Nearly 100 of those have been in Oneida and Vilas Counties.
Eight out of those 10 grant recipients in Minocqua are also women-owned businesses.
“There’s just so much going on and I feel like it’s kind of like a new wave of businesses. Younger, fresher, kind of revitalizing the downtown and making it more what it used to be again,” said Hoban.
Hoban used some of the grant money on renovations in the store, like adding a changing room. But she saved most of it.
“I’m saving some of that grant money to kind of get through these slower times. Then I feel like, being two years into the business, and then going into a busy season in the summer I feel like I should really start rolling into where I wouldn’t need like a grant or anything like that going forward,” said Hoban.
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Secretary Missy Hughes and Deputy Secretary Sam Rikkers visited Hoban’s shop and those of other grant recipients in Minocqua last week to check in and do a little holiday shopping themselves.
Hughes says the grant was specifically designed with few restrictions on what the money could be used for.
“We knew that businesses would be the best deciders about how to use the funds,” said Hughes.
It was also designed to help businesses beyond those that are eligible for the grant.
“The real idea behind this grant program was if you’re a business that survived the pandemic, but on either side of you, you had an empty storefront, nobody is going to stop and walk around. We really want to make sure that as you’re driving through a main street community you see a bunch of shops, ‘Oh you want to stop and look around,’” said Hughes.
Hughes recognizes this grant program is a good initial boost for businesses and downtown areas, but that it will take more than that to keep them going.
“This grant program is really an effort to think about the future of Wisconsin. What we know is that we all love our communities, and we love to walk around and see local shop owners. We love to have our kids work at local shops. For anybody who’s out there, the key thing, especially this time of year, is to shop small and to shop local,” said Hughes.
She encourages businesses to apply. The applications need to be in by December 31st.