Small businesses is thriving in Jefferson

The topic for my capstone project is the importance of small (locally owned) businesses in Jefferson, Wis. I am focusing on how they are involved in the community and how they maintain their business in such a small town. If I were to form my topic into a question, it would “how do small/local businesses in Jefferson give back to the community that they depend on to stay in business?” For the project, I looked at what the small businesses do to stay afloat in the economy, and how the local economy and community benefit from supporting their local businesses.

Another area of focus for this project is the effect of chain/big businesses that have come to Jefferson, specifically Walmart as the primary competition. Walmart came into Jefferson, and has caused competition for the other grocery store in Jefferson, Piggly Wiggly. Other chains have come into Jefferson, such as McDonald’s, Little Caesar’s Pizza, and Kwik Trip. These all can cause problems for the locally owned businesses in town, such as Burger Corner, Wedl’s Hamburger Stand, Pizza Pit, and Citgo/River’s Edge Meat Market. When conducting my research, I stumbled on an organization called Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and it’s all about how small businesses can stimulate local economies, and can contribute more to the community than big-box stores, such as Walmart.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance gave a top 10 reasons to support local businesses. The first example is that it gives local character and prosperity. In Jefferson, for example, there is Rock River Gallery, which provides Collectivo coffee, jewelry and crafts created by local artists, and a photography studio. Instead of getting these things from Walmart, people in Jefferson can get one-of-a-kind gifts from a local business that is one-of-a-kind in such a small community.

Another reason ILSR gives for supporting local business is community well-being. This is one of the most important reasons to support local business, especially in Jefferson. Because Jefferson is a small community of roughly 7,900 people, many of whom have lived there their entire lives; there is the small town mentality that everyone knows everyone. These small businesses can also create environments that cause interaction between customers, which can encourage community members to build relationships with one another and the store owners and employees. In an article from Forbes, it’s stated that “many business owners have spent their professional lives building and running their own business: it’s not just their job. It’s the core family asset, their livelihood and their retirement. Often it defines them in their community” (Fairbrothers & Goria, 3).

In an article from ILSR, writer Stacy Mitchell says “To run one’s errands in places that encourage lingering and conversation, where economic exchange is embedded in human relationships, is to experience the place where you live in a meaningful way” (Mitchell, 2, Apr. 2013). Building relationships with local businesses is so important; it makes people feel they are an important member of the community. From personal experience, Brickhaus Café always welcomes me with asking if I want my “usual”—a double caramel latte—and it makes me feel at home. The small-town notion of building relationships with shop owners and customers makes everyone feel involved. This can actually be an advantage for local businesses. The businesses are owned by people who become prominent in the Jefferson community, because they become involved with other people and organizations in the community.

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Burger Corner
Photo Credit: Lauren Piek

John Anhalt, owner of Burger Corner in Jefferson, is highly involved with the community, and has been since he started his own business. Anhalt has been in the fast food business for 50 years, originally starting out with Dairy Queen, which multiple family members also operate. Anhalt branched out from the Dairy Queen franchise when he bought Jim’s Burger Corner, which, coincidentally, was originally a Dairy Queen. Jim wanted someone who would keep the nostalgic atmosphere of the fast food burger joints of the 1950s and ‘60s. Even after the flood of 2008—which destroyed the original building—Anhalt rebuilt and maintains that same atmosphere in the new building, which opened in July of 2009. Anhalt enjoys having his own small business for various reasons.

“I love the freedom of a small business, and that can come from different things—freedom of my hours, freedom of what I want to do—and having your fate in your own hands,” Anhalt said. “If you have your own small business, it gives you great satisfaction. If you love your job, you never work a day in your life.”

Not only does Anhalt have his own local business, he tries to support other small businesses in the area whenever possible. This applies to another reason ILSR gave for supporting locally owned business: keeping dollars in the local economy. Meat products come from the meat market, River’s Edge, right down the street. He also buys produce from River’s Edge, and refers customers to the meat market when they’re looking for baked goods (River’s Edge has expanded into a bakery as well).

“I like buying local because I know where the product is coming from and I know it’s fresh, which is important to me,” Anhalt said. “I just like helping out other people in the community. Anything that I can buy local, I do, because I like to help my own first. What goes around comes around, and who knows, they might come in here and buy a cone.”

Anhalt also gives back to the community whenever he can. This is another way he supports the local economy; it’s a give and take with the community, Anhalt said. He has donated to various fundraisers and organizations, such as Christmas Neighbors, Tomorrow’s Hope, the Dream Center of Wisconsin, high school sports teams, parochial sports teams, etc. Anhalt also participates in the jail ministry, in which he talks to Jefferson County jail inmates about God, but also is active in finding them employment and housing after they’re released.

Though there are cons to owning a small business, Anhalt believes the pros outweigh them. He gets to build relationships with customers, many of whom have become his friends throughout the years. If he gets to make a customer happy, he’s happy.

“There are nice people here,” Anhalt said. “They’re a little clique-ish at first, but once you get them on your side, they’re like a bulldog: they’ll be here for life.”

Another small business in Jefferson is Once and Again Consignments, which is a consignment retail shop. The owner, Mary Krueger, first opened the business after shopping at various thrift shops in the area.

Once & Again Consignments Photo Credit: Google Maps

Once & Again Consignments
Photo Credit: Google Maps

“I never thought I would open a small business,” Krueger said. “I was mostly a stay-at-home mom and used to mostly do rummage sales and second-hand shopping. One day I said ‘I bet I could do this.’ It’s just something I was challenging myself to do, and I saw it as something Jefferson could used. We only have two thrift stores—St. Vincent De Paul and Twice As Nice—but really nothing else something more upscale.”

Jefferson’s lack of retail stores makes Krueger’s store unique to the community. Another reason the store is unique to the community how the store gives back to the community. In November, Once and Again collected food for Christmas Neighbors. Every month, there is a rummage sale area in the basement of the store, with items priced at rummage sale prices. All of the proceeds of those items go to different organizations, such as Christmas Neighbors, Tomorrow’s Hope, and Rainbow Hospice.

“The consigners love it,” Krueger said. “The customers appreciate knowing that if they get the good deals from the rummage stuff, that their money is going to a good cause.”

Krueger and her store also donate items to human services and the Jefferson Middle School. The middle school has an “eagle room,” where students can go to get clothes without the embarrassment of rummaging and facing the social stigma of not having name-brand clothes, Krueger said. Krueger likes to keep the majority of her donations in the community, but she has also donated to organizations in Madison, Milwaukee, and a Native American reservation in South Dakota.

The small-town feel of owning a local business is another aspect that Krueger enjoys. She gets to build relationships with customers and their families. These relationships can even expand outside the store. Krueger will sometimes personally go to consigners’ home if they’re elderly, and pick up items. It’s enjoyable to be able to ask about each other’s families and form a close relationship with customers, Krueger said. Although the gossip of a small town can be a negative effect on a small business, Krueger believes it can be resolved.

“You have to stay very neutral,” Krueger said. “There’s a lot of gossip that goes on. You can’t say ‘oh, I agree with you, that person is awful’. You have say you know nothing about it personally, and you can’t make a judgment. You have to be really careful.”

Another small business that is thriving in Jefferson is Wine and Roses. Wine and Roses is a full-service floral shop, providing flowers for funerals, birthdays, weddings, etc. The store also has a variety of wines to purchase, along with home-brewing kits for wine and beer. Owner Peggy Bare has been a resident of Jefferson all her life, and has been involved with different small businesses for the last 25 years. She and her husband, Tim, have maintained a real estate business throughout those years, but the Bares wanted to open another small business after the real estate market became unreliable.

“I tried to find something in Jefferson that there was a need for in the community, which is why I picked the flower shop,” Bare said. “I also combined it with a hobby that I was passionate about, which was making wine.”

Wine & Roses Photo Credit: Google Maps

Wine & Roses
Photo Credit: Google Maps

When Bare originally opened Wine and Roses, she thought the home-brewing kits and wine retail would be the main sellers, with the floral shop being the extra part of the business. It soon turned out to be the other way around. The business is highly order-driven, in which a nine to five schedule is not always nine to five; it can be more or less depending on how big orders are, Bare said. Because there is not another floral shop in Jefferson, the two funeral homes—Olsen Funeral Home and Schneider-Michaelis Funeral Home—have relied heavily on Wine and Roses. Families work closely with both the funeral home and Wine and Roses when picking floral arrangements and ideas for the funerals. Bare said this can be difficult when living in such a small community such as Jefferson, especially when she knows the person who died, or the death was tragic, such as the recent passing of Jordan Vogel, a 23-year-old firefighter and well-known community member. Although those times are troubling, it allows another pro of owning a small business in a small community: building close customer relationships.

Bare also built a close relationship with the city, in restoring an old, vacant building into a business that stimulates the local economy. Bare had to make a presentation to the city planning commission, with siding samples, building materials, and layout of what the new store would look like. She was able to receive a $15,000 façade grant from the city, along with TIF money. Bare took a vacant building off the tax roll from the city and their tax payers, which is another reason supporting local business is so important; it helps the taxpayers.

When comparing the impact of big-box stores to local businesses, there is one big-box store that has caused a massive impact in Jefferson: Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart opened in Jefferson in 2008, with backlash from many local businesses, specifically Piggly Wiggly and Frank’s County Market. County Market eventually went out of business in 2011, after being unable to compete with Wal-Mart, which was located directly across the highway. In a study done by Carlena Cochi Ficano for Social Science Quarterly, it was found that in within 15 months of opening a new Wal-Mart, between 4.4 and 14.2 retail establishments close (Ficano, 263). This study can be tied into the closing of Frank’s County Market in Jefferson. According to Ficano’s study, it “suggests that Wal-Mart triggers significant churn in the local labor market, with large numbers of people laid off, facing periods of unemployment followed by new jobs that may be only part-time or lower paying” (Ficano,289). The opening of Wal-Mart and the closing of Frank’s County Market left many people in the community displaced for work. Thankfully, River’s Edge Meat Market and Piggly Wiggly both employed many people from County Market, keeping them locally employed, and still encouraging local business.

Although Wal-Mart provides convenience for many people in Jefferson and surrounding cities such as Fort Atkinson and Johnson Creek, the big-box store actually costs taxpayers through public assistance such as healthcare, housing, and food stamps. In a study done by ILSR, it was found that “the average Wal-Mart worker required $730 in taxpayer-funded healthcare and $1,222 in other forms of assistance such as food stamps and subsidized housing, to get by” (Mitchell,1, Aug. 2004). Although this study was done about Wal-Mart employees in California, similar studies have been done about workers in Missouri, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. The biggest problem that Mitchell found was that small businesses that provide health insurance have to pay out-of-pocket, while big-box stores such as Wal-Mart make the local taxpayers the primary providers in paying for their health care costs (Mitchell, 1, Jun. 2013). Mitchell also brings up the fact that “Democratic staffers in the House roughly estimate that Wal-Mart employees require about $3,000 a year in public assistance on average. That works out to about $900,000 per supercenter and more than $4 billion annually in public costs nationwide” (Mitchell, 2, Jun. 2013).

The public costs of having a big-box store in competition with small-business are an eye-opener as to why communities should support their local businesses. Local businesses are so important to communities for various reasons. They stimulate the local economy, bring character to their community, encourage community involvement from customers, employees, and owners, and create a diversity of retail. Jefferson was once a bustling retail destination because of the intersection of the Rock and Crawfish rivers and plethora of businesses. With the encroachment of big-box stores such as Wal-Mart and Menard’s, the decrease of local businesses have become all too real, with the closing of Frank’s County Market and the soon-to-be closed Punzel’s Hardware Store. Supporting local business is what can truly make or break a small town, and with new small businesses such as Brickhaus Café and having a farmer’s market every week during the non-Winter months, Jefferson is slowly headed back in the right direction.

Sources Cited:
Anhalt, J. (2013, Dec. 04). Personal Interview.

Bare, P. (2013, Dec. 08). Personal Interview.

Fairbrothers, G., & Goria, C. (2012, July 05). Social value and corevalue: small businesses and local communities. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/greggfairbrothers/2012/07/05/social-value-and-corevalue-small-businesses-and-local-communities/

Ficano, C. C. (2012). Business churn and the retail giant: Establishment birth and death from wal-mart’s entry. Social Science Quarterly, 94: 263-291. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6237.2012.00857.x

Krueger, M. (2013, Dec. 04). Personal Interview.

Mitchell, S. (2013, April 26). Locally owned businesses can help communities thrive–and survive climate change. Retrieved from http://www.ilsr.org/locally-owned-businesses-communities-thrive-survive-climate-change/

Mitchell, S. (2013, June 07). New data show how big chains free ride on taxpayers at the expense of responsible small businesses. Retrieved from http://www.ilsr.org/chains-walmart-foods-free-ride-taxpayers-expense-responsible-small-businesses/

Mitchell, S. (2004, August 13). New study find wal-mart’s miserly wages cost taxpayers. Retrieved from http://www.ilsr.org/new-study-finds-walmarts-miserly-wages-cost-taxpayers/

Mitchell, S. (2012, Dec. 10). Top 10 reasons to support locally owned businesses. Retrieved from http://www.ilsr.org/why-support-locally-owned-businesses/

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Quality of life & economic development main concern for Jefferson county board

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Quality of life and economic development were the key factors in discussing the budget at the Jefferson County Board meeting, at 7 p.m., Nov. 12, 2013 in Jefferson, Wisc.

The meeting started with a public comment from Andy Didion, who was against a proposed amendment to the budget, which would take money away from the Parks Department. By maintaining the parks during the winter months, it could attract people to the county, and enhance the county, Didion said.

Throughout the meeting, the main discussion came from taking money from the Parks Department and using it in other departments. Gregory Torres, District 12 Representative, proposed the majority of the amendments, which were turned down:

  • Eliminate money from farmland preservation
  • Eliminate $10,000 for a nine-hole disc golf course at Carlin Wedl Park in Palmyra, Wisc.
  • Eliminate $13,000 be eliminated from the Parks Department for the installation of a well at the Garman Nature Preserve in Waterloo, Wisc.

The amendment with the largest amount of money that was opposed was George Jaeckel’s proposition to eliminate $55,000 from the Parks department, to give to the Sheriff’s Department for capital equipment and capital auto.

The money remained with the Parks department. $40,000 is going to be used for equipment to groom the bike trail in the winter for cross-country skiing, and $15,000 will be used for equipment for the dog park in the winter.

While discussing these proposed amendments, multiple members of the county board brought up the debate of quality of life and economic development in the county. Maintaining and adding to the parks of Jefferson County will add diversity, economic development, and increase recreational income and infrastructure, Greg David, District 3 Representative, said.

County Board Chairman John Molinaro also agreed that quality of life is a large factor for increasing economic development in the county.

“You heard it in the debate last night about economic development,” Molinaro said. “We hear it from all the big employers in Jefferson County, the hospitals, the businesses, who tell us that those types of quality of life issues, like the parks and the Fair Park, are really a key element in recruiting high level employees to their businesses. They tell us on a regular basis, good parks, good bike trails, recreational activities, are all elements they use in the economic development of their business.”

The other large issue during the board meeting was the development of the new county shop. The new county highway shop is being built where the old Countryside home currently stands on Hwy W. A new county shop is needed due to the large equipment and the deterioration of the current building.

This project will affect the county’s tax levy for 2014, which $27, 004,367, with a mill rate of 4.2655. A tax levy is simply a big-picture view of taxes. It’s the total amount that a taxing entity expects to collect in its jurisdiction.

In Wisconsin, counties get part of their money from property tax, while the rest of the county’s money comes from fines and fees, but mostly form state shared revenue.

The next Jefferson County Board Meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Dec. 10, 2013 at the Jefferson County Courthouse.

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Guitar Lessons: Paranormal Activity and Slide Guitar

 

This weekend, I attended a guitar lesson in Watertown, Wisc. My guitar teacher, Lee de Falla, and I met at his studio above Brown’s Shoes in downtown Watertown.

Guitar-guitar-27380269-1024-768    De Falla has been my guitar teacher for about four years now, and he has branched out from White House of Music, where I started guitar lessons. His new studio is an ongoing project in an old communications building.

The guitar lesson started as it always does now that he’s in a new building; a cup of coffee and a few minutes petting Max, the cat. De Falla and I talked about our plans for the weekend.

Paranormal Activity

As we continued talking, we somehow got on the topic of paranormal activity, and de Falla told me about how his house in Lake Mills is haunted. A paranormal investigative team came into his home and found a lot of ghostly activity to be present, de Falla said.

The investigative team appeared to actually make whatever was haunting the house even angrier, de Falla said. His wife decided it could be some Native American spirit, because of how close Lake Mills is to the Aztalan State Park. She contacted her mother, who has close ties to people in the Ho-Chunk tribe. A shaman was brought to the house and calmed the angry spirit down, de Falla said. Needless to say, this guitar lesson had a different start than normal.

Recording an Album

De Falla and I sat down to start playing guitar, and we discussed the song we had been working on. I was supposed to write a lead guitar part for the song, but had failed to complete it within the last week.

Instead, we jammed, with de Falla playing rhythm on his nylon-stringed classical guitar, and I played lead on my acoustic steel-string. The song actually turned out to sound great, with a jazz/bossa nova feel.

After we were done jamming, de Falla decided that we need to record a CD, in the recording booth he has in his studio. He asked me to think about what songs I would want to do.

Considering I can play on an electric, acoustic, and classical guitar, de Falla and I agreed that all three could be recorded on the album.  A variety of songs will be on the album, including:

  • “Atlantic City” by Bruce Springsteen(acoustic)
  • “Bianco Fiore” by Cesare Negri (classical)
  • “Georgia” by Lauren Piek (acoustic)

We also hope to record some of our jam sessions. When de Falla and I play together, we usually play blues-oriented music.

Another musical adventure we discussed was learning how to play slide guitar. Slide guitar has always been something I have been interested in, and briefly learned about it when working on a Hawaiian music project for my World Music class at Madison College.

The lesson ended with my attempt at using de Falla’s glass side, which was too big for my fingers. The next guitar lesson will be Friday, Nov. 22.

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Water in Whitewater is main concern of Whitewater City Council Meeting

Water conservation was the main topic at the Whitewater City Council meeting on Tuesday, September 17, at the Whitewater Municipal building.

Dr. McGee Young, a political science professor from Marquette University, gave a presentation on his plans to help the city of Whitewater conserve water and save on their water bill. His project, called H2Oscore, is a water conservation service that allows members of the Whitewater community to see their water use online, and eventually how their water is being wasted. The goal of the program is to conserve water and for the community of Whitewater to save on their water bill.

H2Oscore is going to collaborate with the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, as it has with five other universities, Young said. There are other cities that have engaged in the program, such as Milwaukee, Waukesha, and Grafton, Young said.

Young believes that the community of Whitewater can benefit from H2Oscore. “If we can pull together as a community, and figure out what we’re good at, we can do some amazing things,” Young said.

Local businesses have been signing up for the program, in which they can use the “dashboard,” to see their water use. Whitewater is the first to experience the new dashboard, Young said.

City Council Member Stephanie Abbott asked about student rental properties, and how H2Oscore would help benefit landlords and students. Landlords are a critical piece in this program, Young said. With the use of incentives and partnering with local businesses, such as the Hawk Bowl, landlords can be rewarded for their water conservation efforts through H2Oscore, and in turn can either use those rewards for themselves or give them back to the students renting the property.

After Young’s presentation and questions from the City Council, the City Council came to an agreement that the city of Whitewater would engage in H2Oscore’s services.

Another topic that was thoroughly discussed during Tuesday’s meeting was smoke testing the plumbing throughout the city of Whitewater. There has been an issue of “clear water,” flowing into the wastewater facilities, which causes an overflow of sewer water. If there are breaks in the line, it can contribute to overflow of sewer water into the wastewater facility, which causes complications with the facility, City Manager Cameron Clapper explained.

Smoke testing is done to see if there is clear water going into the sanitary sewer system, Clapper said. Clapper encouraged everyone at the meeting to go to the city’s website for more information about the smoke testing.

The storm water system in Whitewater also was discussed during the meeting. Specifically, storm water drains on Church and Whitewater Streets are a problem area, because there is too much water going in and not enough going out. The council agreed for a storm water system study to be done, to fix the overflow of storm water.

A financial trend analysis was given during the meeting. The key points included:

  • The City of Whitewater received more revenue through state funding in 2012; the city received 66.5 percent revenue from the state.
  • Whitewater is spending less per capita than 20 years ago, even with growth in size.
  • Whitewater is spending less money than in 2003.
  • Whitewater property value decreased by -2.71 percent, but value should continues to increase.

Other topics during the City Council meeting included:

  • A new mobile app was made for the Whitewater Public Library, where patrons can download e-books, renew a book from the library, contact staff, and scan a UPC code at the bookstore and have the library put it on hold.
  • Four 15-minute parking meters on First Street, two on each side are being taken away to free up parking space down town.
  • The Discover Whitewater race was promoted. There are 479 registered runners, and 63 sponsors with 400 volunteers from local business, UW-Whitewater, and area schools. Volunteers are still welcome and there is more information online about the event.
  • A Class B liquor license was transferred to the new owner of the Downstairs Bar and Grille, at the same location.
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Kommt, Kommt Alle!

button  This coming weekend marks the 43rd Gemuetlichkeit festival in Jefferson. The theme this year is “Come, Come All!” which is fitting for the three-day celebration of the city’s German heritage. The city of Jefferson welcomes everyone to come celebrate everything German (even if they’re not German), including polka music, dancing, eating lots of brats and sauerkraut, and wearing traditional German clothing. On Friday night, the celebration really begins with the tapping of the first keg at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, where many of the activities take place.

On Saturday, the fun continues with a Euchre tournament, craft fair, and the infamous road rally, which starts at Fairview Sports Bar. I’ll be participating in the road rally for the third year in a row. This year, my team will be representing Herbie’s Bar in Jefferson. The point of the road rally is to drive around on rural roads in Jefferson County, looking for different things on a checklist, and writing down the address or filling in the blanks about a specific clue. Last year, my team took 3rd place, so we’re going to try for 1st this year. This year, the popular semi-local country band Madison County will be performing at the Fairgrounds, although the traditional polka music will be going on throughout the weekend.

Sunday is perhaps the biggest day for Gemuetlichkeit, because of the parade. Starting at noon, everything from high school marching bands to local businesses to perspective political candidates participate in the parade. Downtown Jefferson is usually quite busy during the parade, and afterwards, many people go to the Fairgrounds for some final polka music and have the final drink (Ein Prosit!)

For more information about the German celebration, go to http://gdays.org/

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