Employed

Employed is 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 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.

Entrepreneurship, broadband, work-from-home, and COVID-19 are all part of that mix. What makes you wonder, or what story ideas do you have for Employed? Submit them below.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

It’s 3:30 p.m. on a Thursday, time for Aaron Schofield to load up the Lakeside Pharmacy and Grocery minivan.

He’s about to depart from the Lakeside store in Antigo.

“I just kind of hop in the van, head out, go to the address,” he said.

Aaron makes a circuit of Antigo at 3:30 every day, delivering prescription medication to the doors of customers. The number of deliveries are never constant, but never zero.

“Could be anywhere from three to four like today, to 15 to 20 [on other days],” he said. “You really just never know.”

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Sandy Maki looked out at rows of workstations, all of which have been empty since this spring.

“There’s usually about 35 people in here at a time with supervisors to assist,” she said.

She’s the managing supervisor here, at Global Response in downtown Iron River.

Maki is used to seeing and hearing up to 5,000 incoming calls a day to her call center employees.

“Sometimes you hear people [say], ‘Thank you for calling.’ They end a call, and they’re right on to, ‘Thank you for calling,’ starting a new one. Sometimes it can be back to back,” she said.

Leanne Vigue Miranda

Several times a day, one of Leanne Vigue Miranda’s daughters taps on her shoulder while she’s in a Zoom meeting.

Phoebe, a fourth-grader, or Luna, a kindergartener, has a homework question or computer issue.

“I constantly feel like my focus is being shifted every five to ten minutes,” Miranda said.

Miranda is the registrar at Nicolet College, and she’s been working from home since the pandemic started. Sometimes, her days include ten virtual meetings while her daughters learn virtually nearby.

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Ben Meyer/WXPR

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.’