Employed

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A new storefront in downtown Rhinelander attracts few walk-in customers.

The store sells parts for commercial, business, and personal aircraft, even though it’s far from any major airport.

But although it doesn’t get much street traffic, the business plan and attitude of the owners might be a sign of a downtown on a gradual rise.

“If I was going to describe my business, I’m like the Napa Auto Parts for airplanes,” said Bob Lueder, the owner of Plane Parts Inc. in downtown Rhinelander.

image courtesy of Phyl Wickham

The Northwoods is known for an active music scene. Local singer/songwriters, however, depend on live performances to earn a living. Jim Skibo visited with two musicians and discussed how the pandemic has changed their lives and music.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Living in Lake Superior’s shadow and walking its windy shore in Ashland didn’t sound like much of a life plan to Sara Hudson.

But 16 years ago, when her husband got a job here, the young couple moved to what seemed like a remote place.

“When we moved here, I was still like, what are we doing here?” Hudson said. “I had a friend that cried for a year straight.”

Around that time, an outsider could be forgiven for having a grim view for the area’s future.

Iron ore shipments from Ashland, a backbone of the community, had stopped in the 1960s.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Katy Martens looks into her computer camera and greets her virtual audience, starting a session of yoga with essential oils.

She’s in her backyard in Sayner, surrounded by a forest of changing color.

Most of her audience is where Martens lived just six months ago, the greater Milwaukee area.

She and her family moved to Vilas County, and her students stayed with her virtually.

“It was just like, I can do this from anywhere. Sayner’s awesome. It’s our family house,” she said. “It’s better for the kids. It was kind of a no-brainer then, at that point.”

Ben Meyer/WXPR

For many small businesses in the Northwoods, offering one product or service just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Especially during a global pandemic, doing two things at once is often a necessity for survival.

That’s on display in Park Falls, where last Wednesday, Linda Bukachek filled a pitcher with heated wax in a back room at Patchouli Garden.

It’s the first step in a candle-making process she’s repeated over and over. Bukachek next adds ingredients, color, and fragrances to the wax. Then, she carefully pours it into a dozen candle molds.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

One of the first things a visitor to the Solution Center in Land O’Lakes notices is the clocks.

Clocks of different styles line the walls.

Some of them work. Some of them don’t. It doesn’t really matter.

“It’s kind of just a key reminder why we’re here, is to give people their time back,” said Marsha McVicker, walking through the building.

McVicker is the founder and owner of Errand Solutions, which produces an app and concierge service called Luv Your Life.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Cindy Hoffman is a grandmother.

She doesn’t have a job, but she’s not retired.

Instead, for eight hours a day, she’s a student.

“Yes. It is my job until I get my degree,” she said, sitting on her back porch in St. Germain.

Using her laptop, Hoffman showed off her Nicolet College learning portal.

“I’ve been on the Dean’s List now a couple of times,” Hoffman said. “If I do anything, I want to do it well.”

Now in her late 50s, Hoffman was named the college’s Academic Success Student of the Year last year.

WXPR introduces ‘Employed,’ a weekly reporting series focused on the new Northwoods.

The landscape of living, playing, and working in the Northwoods is changing. Where we work, where we shop, where we eat, where we reside, and how we support our families looks different than it did even a decade ago. It continues to shift as industry, tourism, retail, services, and natural resources shift.

WXPR seeks to bring its listeners the stories of those shifts through a new weekly series, ‘Employed.’