The exterior of TLC Casuals as seen Oct. 7, 2020, in Sheboygan, Wis. (Photo: Gary C. Klein/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)
SHEBOYGAN – Sheboygan small business owners are spearheading a campaign called “Heart of the Hometown” to encourage people to shop at and support local establishments.
Many businesses have seen losses upward of 40% after the shutdown earlier this year and a decrease of foot traffic throughout the summer. Almost every business has had to harness its creativity to figure out how to keep doors open in this tumultuous year.
“Heart of the Hometown is meant to convey how much we all depend on each other during this time,” said Caitlin Brotz, owner of Olivü 426.
Hospitals depend on community members to practice safe COVID-19 mitigation strategies, she said, and local businesses depend on customers making the effort to shop small — instead of at big box stores — especially with a state order limiting capacity to 25% indoors.
“Don’t forget about us,” said Stephanie Rakun, owner of Mini Mocha Play Cafe.
Heart of the Hometown will have a series of events throughout the next few months offering deals and promotions, starting with its second annual “Boo-tique Crawl” on Oct. 12.
Shopping locally, owner of TLC Casuals Tami Conard said, not only supports that business, but other parts of the community too. It creates a ripple effect in the local economy because those local businesses in turn give money to local schools and charities.
Conard has had her women’s clothing boutique on the riverfront for 24 years. When she first went out on her own, she wanted her business to feel like a destination. When she goes on vacation, she always looks for water, so the riverfront seemed perfect.
Having to shut down for two months earlier this year was devastating, she said. She tried to connect with customers online, but with people spending so much time at home they didn’t need new outfits like before.
Like many entrepreneurs, Conard said her first year in business was tough and some nights she would wake up in a sweat thinking about what she’d gotten herself into.
This year is beginning to feel like that, she said, “because it’s unknown and uncharted territory.”
But Conard has tapped into creative ways to still reach customers. The store has private shopping parties after hours. She also does a weekly fashion show on social media with 30 to 40 outfits where people can comment “sold” or “hold” to indicate that they would like the item shipped directly to them or held at the store to pick up the next day.
The exterior of Mini Mocha Play Cafe as seen Oct. 7, 2020, in Sheboygan, Wis. (Photo: Gary C. Klein/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)
For Rakun, her business was still in its first year when the coronavirus temporarily closed its doors. April 27 was the one-year anniversary of her play space and cafe, but, sadly, there wasn’t really a celebration to be had with the doors still closed.
Winter is normally her busy season, but this year Rakun is nervous about it and isn’t quite sure what it will look like.
During the shutdown, Rakun delivered toys, activity boxes and even coffee to families throughout the county and beyond.
Since the end of May, she’s been offering private play that families have to reserve in advance. Only three to five families can come per day and there’s a limit to how long they can stay — a change from the unlimited playtime available before it was reservation-based.
Rakun sees Heart of the Hometown as a good way for businesses to work together to let the community know they are still there. She plans on having gift certificates and play passes available during some of the upcoming promotions.
Businesses need support now, she said, so they can still exist and operate after the pandemic passes.
“The businesses downtown make up the heart of the city,” Brotz said. “It’s where people from Sheboygan and tourists alike go to eat, shop and play.
Businesses participating in Heart of the Hometown include: Black Pig, Mini Mocha Play Cafe, Penn Avenue Pub, Board & Brush, Happy Rocks and Jewelry, Honey & Ace, The Honey Hole, The Rickety Wagon, Mainstream Boutique, Nest, Olivü 426, Relish, R. Erlien Jewelers, TLC Casuals, Urban Artique, MAVERICKS Barbershop and Freaktoyz Collectibles.
Reach AnnMarie Hilton at [email protected] or (920) 242-3032. Follow her on Twitter at @hilton_annmarie.
More: Little Owls Child Care Center opens in the town of Wilson after a delay from the coronavirus
More: ‘Pure hell’: As hospital CEO reports risk of being ‘overwhelmed,’ one of St Nicholas’ first patients reflects on three weeks in the ICU
More: Sheboygan County sees 20th COVID-19 related death as active cases surpass 300 after emergency alert issued
Read or Share this story: https://www.sheboyganpress.com/story/news/2020/10/12/sheboygan-small-businesses-launch-campaign-survive-covid-19/5913105002/