Jul. 26—JANESVILLE — The one constant downtown for the last number of years has been the amount of change that has taken place.
From the removal of the old parking deck over the Rock River to the replacement of the Milwaukee Street bridge to the pandemic and the current road construction projects on South Main and West Milwaukee streets, the transformations have been striking.
Businesses downtown, meanwhile, have had to find ways to survive. Three women who operate their own shops and a fourth who runs Raven's Wish art gallery talked with The Gazette about their work and about the sense of community they have found together.
Margie Siggelkow runs Adorn Janesville at 39 S. Main St.
"I saw there was this revitalization going on downtown, which is really exciting," she said. "I saw a lot of open storefronts. I thought it would be really cool to have a shop that was focused on sustainability made and ethically made items."
Siggelkow noticed most items that were sustainably made were also made by women. She now focuses on providing home goods, gifts and accessories that are ethically made by women or other woman-owned businesses.
"It was a natural progression to focus on the women's stuff because of my background," said Siggelkow, who worked at multiple domestic violence shelters for women after pursuing women's studies in college.
Adorn is just one woman-owned business on the first block of South Main Street. It neighbors Carousel Consignments, Modern Charm and Angie's on Main.
"Nobody's competitive," Siggelkow said. "No one is like, 'You shouldn't open a shop because I have a shop like yours.' The more the merrier, the better it is."
Siggelkow is grateful to be next door to Angie's, named for owner Angie Losee, because they constantly help each other out, Siggelkow said.
Angie's On Main
Angie's On Main opened in 2016 but has been at its current spot at 37 S. Main St. for three years. There, the store tripled its space from its first location, which was just across the street.
"I just wanted a place for local artists to be able to sell their stuff," Losee said. "Then we morphed into different people bringing their fabulous finds. We transferred over here and just exploded."
Losee takes on new vendors all the time. Her youngest vendor is a 4-year old girl who makes shapes out of old crayons. Her oldest is a 92-year old man who brings in items he finds and resells them at the shop.
She enjoys being surrounded by other woman-owned shops because of the camaraderie that comes with it.
"It's nice because we can share ideas with each other," Losee said. "None of us are the same. We just share different ideas of how to make things better."
Two more doors down at 31 S. Main St. is Carousel Consignments, run by married couple Joni and Larry Bozart. The consignment store sells antiques, collectibles, general housewares and much more. This year is the couple's 30th year in business.
"We love it down here. I would recommend downtown to anyone," Joni Bozart said. "My husband found the location. We ended up buying the building a couple of years after we were here. We're just really glad we did."
When the shop started, it was just Joni running the store and her husband would help on the side. After a few years, Larry had to quit his job as a carpenter and come on full time at the store to help.
"So now he works for me," Joni said with a laugh.
When the consignment store first opened, Joni said she did not have retail shops next door like she does now. In the last decade, the downtown has gone through a period of revitalization after the Great Recession, she said.
"You get to know a lot doing this type of business, and when people buy and repurpose things, a lot of women are running those types of shops," she said.
Joni is always talking to her neighbors and enjoys having retail shops as neighbors now.
"We each do something that's a little different," Joni said. "Annie of Modern Charm has some midcentury modern stuff. She has her own niche. Next to her is Angie's and then Adorn. They all have their own thing. It's this whole row of us with a little restaurant right next door (29 South Cafe). We all have our own thing that we're doing but I think it complements each other."
On the other side of the Rock River at 101 W. Milwaukee St. is another woman-owned store, but it isn't a retail shop. Raven's Wish is an art gallery and custom frame emporium. Owner Alicia Reid opened in 2007 after she bought the custom framing shop Myers Framing Stitch.
"When they retired, I bought the business and we kind of segued into custom framing, which they were already doing," Reid said. "We continue doing that in part of the store. Then we opened the art gallery part. It was just me and five other friends who had their work in the shop. Now we're up to about 100 artists, most of whom are within a 30-minute drive or so. It's a good representation of local artwork."
Raven's Wish's first location was behind the Shopko Plaza on the north side of Janesville. Reid said they were doing OK there but not great with walk-in traffic. Then 10 years ago, Reid's friends from the store Home Again, Jackie Wood and Jim Alverson, encouraged her to look downtown. She quickly saw it was a great place to be and moved to her current location.
"We've been very pleased with our move," Reid said. "It's nice to see lots of other shops open, many of whom are women-owned. It's a good community. I just called Margie from Adorn because I had a question. We had an artist in common. It's pleasant and it's rewarding."