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‘Shop Small Wisconsin’ this holiday season

Deputy Secretary Sam Rikkers makes a stop at several small businesses to do his holiday shopping.

Governor Evers, WEDC officials will visit locally owned businesses and thriving downtowns to show that shopping small matters

MADISON, WI. NOV. 22, 2022 – Nearly 7,200 storefronts in all 72 Wisconsin counties are filled with vibrant and unique small businesses and nonprofits this holiday season with the help of the Main Street Bounceback grant.

Now Governor Tony Evers and Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes are reminding everyone that Wisconsinites need to support these and other locally owned businesses so our communities thrive far beyond the festive season.

“Thriving communities need healthy, successful business districts,” Hughes said. “Locally owned businesses not only provide jobs and investments in our communities but they also help build a sense of place. These businesses reflect the personality of their communities and give us places to connect and celebrate during the holidays and all year round.”

Hughes, WEDC Deputy Secretary Sam Rikkers and other members of the governor’s cabinet will be visiting small businesses to do their holiday shopping this season. Evers has proclaimed Nov. 26 to Dec. 31 to be “Shop Small Wisconsin” season and he and First Lady Kathy Evers recorded a video at the Spring Green General Store celebrating Wisconsin’s locally owned businesses. Watch the video here.

Rikkers kicked off ‘Shop Small Wisconsin’ events Monday with a visit to downtown Ripon to check out the retail store for Patina Vie, a Wisconsin-grown home goods brand that is sold at major retailers nationwide and has collaborated with brands such as Disney, Castelle (patio and outdoor living) and Karastan (rugs). He also had a chance to check out family-owned Knuth Brewing Company and other downtown businesses.

Rikkers will visit Watertown and Whitewater on Nov. 26.

The holiday season is a critical time for local businesses, said Craig Tebon, executive director of Ripon Main Street. Businesses rely on support from visitors and local residents alike with a large percentage of retail sales coming this time of year, he said.

“Supporting small businesses, not only during the holiday season but also year-round, is critical in maintaining a healthy local economy,” Tebon said.

Communities across the state are gearing up to host special events and spread holiday cheer to encourage visitors and residents to check out locally owned businesses.

In Whitewater, the Chamber of Commerce is hosting the city’s “First Annual Shop Small Holiday Market” on Nov. 26 at Cravath Lakefront Park and Community Center. The event features local vendors and businesses, food trucks, music, a tree lighting and, of course, Santa.

Many of the businesses that will be featured are just starting out and do not yet have storefronts yet — making events like this even more important to the businesses’ success, said Kellie Carper, the chamber’s executive director.

“We have a lot of entrepreneurial spirit that lives in Whitewater,” Carper said. “The market truly is an opportunity to create a little holiday spirit in town.”

Across Wisconsin, entrepreneurs ready to take the leap into brick-and-mortar have benefited from the Main Street Bounceback grant program. The $100 million program offers $10,000 grants to businesses and nonprofits that move into or expand into a currently vacant Wisconsin commercial property.

Originally announced in April 2021, the grant program has proven so popular that Governor Evers has twice added funding for the grants and extended the deadline for businesses to apply to Dec. 31. The grants are paid for by federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Courtney Saniter and her boyfriend and business partner, Mike Ruess, are gearing up for the first holiday season in their new Watertown houseplant and gift store, Wilder’s Plants & More.

The Main Street Bounceback grant gave the couple the confidence needed to turn their hobby into a business, Saniter said.

“We had almost a jungle in our house,” said Saniter, a Watertown native who sees the city and business investments in their downtown as helping to add personality to the community. “It just grew out of a love of the plants.”

The business also allows the couple to build a special connection with their customers. After his mother’s death more than 10 years ago, Ruess began tending her houseplants.

Cuttings of those original plants proved to be extremely popular when the couple opened the shop this summer.

“People loved it,” Saniter said of the golden pothos the store featured. “I could tell them the story and say that ‘these are from Barb.’”