Chippewa County

New businesses create building shortage downtown



Bye the Willow, in its first year as a beer and wine lounge and event center at 501 High St. in downtown Chippewa Falls, played host this month to the 26th annual Main Street meeting.

It was a fitting location, considering Bye the Willow represents the changes that have taken place downtown in the past year.

“It’s just unbelievable,” Teri Ouimette, Main Street’s executive director, said when asked to describe all that transpired in 2014. “We’ve been fortunate. Chippewa Falls is an attractive city to move into as a business.”

That is borne out in the shortage of existing locations for businesses to find. Ouimette called that a nice problem to have.

In addition to Bye the Willow, other new downtown businesses include: The Brown Barn; Idea; Beth’s Western Wear and Tack; Excite Wellness Studio; Fridayz; Pearlymaes Printing and cleaning service; and Allied Chiropractic.

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The Sheeley House Saloon reopened this past fall, while TC Teks and Cornerstone Physical Therapy each relocated into the Konsella Building, and Insty Prints relocated to the Indianhead Plaza Building.

Outimette also cited three instances of rehabilitations: the former Konsella building at the corner of North Bridge Street and West Grand Avenue; buildings on West Central Street across from City Hall; and Amundson’s Home Appliance building on the corner of North Bridge and West Central streets.

The year was eventful in other ways. It was Main Street’s first year of hosting the Pure Water Days parade in August. This coming year, the organization will take over coordination of all Pure Water Days activities, with the hopes of bringing fireworks to the event.

The three annual Paint the Town events (Red, Pink and Christmas) grew in popularity, and the second Ice Sculpture Tour in December also was a big draw.

There were record turnouts for both the Bridge to Wonderland parade in December and the trick or treating event in October. The farmers market and the haunted history tour also had their followings.

“There’s just a lot of exciting things going on,” Ouimette said.

Chippewa Falls has garnered attention throughout the Upper Midwest for the support it is giving people with dementia, with stories in several publications, including the Herald last summer and subsequently in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and AARP magazine.

Those stories were a result of many businesses posting signs on its store-front windows with a purple angel and the words, “We are a dementia-friendly business.” Employees have been trained to recognize the signs of the affliction, which affects a growing number of our aging population.

Also growing is the response Main Street is receiving in social media circles. It has more than 3,500 Facebook likes, representing a gain of 1,000 in 2014, according to Ouimette, plus more than 800 Pinterest followers and an annual reach of over 65,000.

This spring Marshfield’s Main Street program has agreed to join its Chippewa Falls counterpart in sending a contingent of people to each other’s downtown to make an assessment and offer their first impressions of the two cities.

Chippewa Falls made several very visible strides in 2014, including the area on the southern entrance to downtown with the new SEH and Chamber of Commerce buildings. That area will continue to be developed as part of the city’s riverfront development plans.

Ouimette praised Mayor Greg Hoffman and the City Council, city planner Jayson Smith and both the Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation and Chippewa Falls Area Chamber of Commerce for being so proactive. She also cited their work as an example of how everyone is pulling in the same direction.

“The best thing about Chippewa is that we all work together, and it’s very easy,” she said. “That’s the key.”

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