Sarah Razner FDL Reporter
Published 12:25 PM EST Feb 26, 2020
FOND DU LAC – Downtown businesses celebrated the best of 2019 at the Downtown Fond du Lac Partnership Annual meeting at the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts.
The meeting recognized several individuals who added to or bettered the downtown landscape in this past year. In 2019, 15 new businesses opened in downtown, bringing the vacancy rate to 4.9%, dropping by more than half since 2013, according to a press release from the partnership.
During the meeting, the partnership recognized the design of new businesses 18 Hands Ale Haus and the Hotel Retlaw. Sam Meyer, owner of the 18 Hands Ale Haus, received the Exterior Design of the Year Award for the exterior renovation of 18 E. Division St., according to the release. Meyer purchased property in 2018 and completed a massive overhaul of it, transforming the first level into a biergarten and tavern, and the upper floor into residential lofts.
In his renovation, Meyer sought to retain and emphasize the building’s history —particularly its roots as a livery stable when it was built in 1880. The building’s front exterior features two of the six remaining hand-carved doors from the Paine Art Center’s carriage house, Meyer told the Fond du Lac Reporter in November 2019.
Legendary Hotels’ Dennis Doucette and Yvonne Roberts took home the Interior Design of the Year recognition for the Hotel Retlaw. The hotel underwent major renovations when purchased by Legendary Hotels in 2018, giving it a modern feel, but also one which calls upon the art deco style of the 1920s — when the Main Street hotel was first constructed.
Principal at Legendary Hotels and Creative Director of Guru of Luxury, Roberts designed each aspect of the hotel from its black and brown porcelain floors to its crystal chandeliers and restored tile laid from the 1920s. From the 121 guest rooms to the Quintessence Spa, the “building is once again vibrant and active,” the partnership said in the release.
Two businesses receive new business award
While typically given to one business, the public overwhelmingly responded with nominations to crown Hair Lounge Owner Vicente Lezama Morales and HempWorks Wisconsin Owners Matt Wirtz and Ben Mueller with the Best New Business Award. The winner of this award is selected for its business performance, innovative practices, challenges overcome and contribution to the community and industry as a whole, according to the release.
HempWorks Wisconsin opened its doors at 188 N. Main St. in March 2019. The business sells CBD products made from hemp and cannabidiol, which have been said to benefit those suffering from ailments like glaucoma, anxiety, arthritis and general aches and pains, Wirtz told The Reporter in February 2019.
Wirtz, Mueller and their employees welcome guests and educate them on the products. The goal of the business “is to promote a healthy and comfortable lifestyle without the use of harmful pharmaceuticals,” according to the release.
In October 2019, Hair Lounge joined the downtown family with mission to give back to his community and create a welcoming space for all. Lezama Morales created the salon, at 104 S. Main St., as a place people could care for themselves and feel empowered, while enjoying a low-key, hang-out vibe, Lezama Morales told The Reporter in October.
There, customers can get haircuts, color, chemical services and natural treatments — focused on hair length rather than customer gender, to promote inclusivity. The business “demonstrates progressive, compassionate and enthusiastic seeds blooming in downtown,” according to the release.
Honoring community service
The Downtown Legacy went to the Fond du Lac Public Library, which has been part of the downtown community since 1902. To remain relevant to the changing community and world, the library has evolved over the years, adding on a used book store, Idea Studio, expanded children’s room, Seefeld Local History Room and Langdon Drivers Community Gallery, according to the release.
Nicole Wiese received the 2019 Friend of Downtown Award, which recognizes an organization or person who majorly impacted the partnership. For the past six years, Wiese served on the partnership’s Board of Directors, four of which were served as treasurer. In addition to her job as senior vice president of Retail Banking at National Exchange Bank and Trust, she acted as a liaison with downtown businesses, as well as volunteered for events and interview panels, according to the release.
For her “significant contribution” to downtown in 2019, the partnership awarded Aubriana Donahue the title of Volunteer of the Year, according to the release. In addition to supporting downtown businesses, Donahue volunteered frequently at the Farmers Market information tent and served as a Fondue Fest block captain.
In the next year, the partnership looks forward to more development. During the meeting, Downtown Fond du Lac Executive Director Amy Hansen talked plans to reconstruct North Main Street between Johnson Street and Merrill Avenue. The project will put in new light poles and sidewalks, as well as visually impact downtown, according to the release.
Contact Sarah Razner at 920-907-7909 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @misssarahrazner.
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