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Sheboygan turns to pop-up shops to drive downtown retail

Posted at 6:22 PM, May 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-22 19:22:04-04

SHEBOYGAN — Entrepreneurs may soon be popping up in downtown Sheboygan.

The City of Sheboygan, Harbor Centre, and Sheboygan County Economic Development Corporation turned to a pop-up shop program to help drive retail and traffic downtown, specifically on 8th Street.

According to the SCEDC, the retail vacancy rate in Sheboygan County is 2.29 percent. In downtown Sheboygan that number is 14 percent.

"When you look around downtown so you see a lot of successful businesses but we also see a few voids where businesses can become successful," said John Motiska, Executive Director of the Harbor Centre Business Improvement District.

Motiska said they are working with the city and property owners to offer businesses a short term lease, a fraction of what they would typically pay in a rental agreement.

"The goal really is to bring retail more retail downtown to help businesses have an opportunity to start up but then also help the surrounding businesses as well," said Motiska.

Organizers hope giving businesses this chance will lead to them staying long-term. The program is modeled after Viroqua, Wisconsin where community leaders reported success with 11 businesses going from pop-up to signing longer-term leases.

Jane Davis-Wood has run the Relish Kitchen Store on N 8th Street since 2013. She said choosing a location between local destinations that draw more traffic was thoughtful decision that has paid off.

"The visibility is fabulous for us," said Davis-Wood.

In the last year and a half she and her daughter expanded their store and began offering cooking classes. While business has been good for them nearby retail spaces are empty.

"I don’t like the look of it," said Davis-Wood, "I know the city and the business improvement district are working extremely hard to fill those spaces so I’m very pleased with the effort that’s been behind everything. I just want people to come and play with us."

Davis-Wood has supported the pop-up program and said she is not afraid of the potential competition.

"I encourage it wholeheartedly. First of all I’ve always been of the mindset the more boats in the water the higher we float," said Davis-Wood.

The pop-up shop program is accepting applications until June 28. It is slated to be up and running by October.