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Elan and Knoke's celebrate 10 years

Dave Knoke, of Knoke's Chocolates and Sandee Madigan of Elan are celebrating 10 years in business on Locust Street this month. They are planning a community market to celebrate on July 31. Photo by Margaret A. Ontl

For local independent business owners, Sandee Madigan and Dave Knoke (pronounced Ka-Nooo-Kee) this is a year to celebrate. The two opened their Locust Street businesses on the same day, July 28, 2000.

Madigan, opened Elan, a women's clothing store, while she and her family still lived in Spring Lake Park, Minn. It did not take long for her to decide Hudson was where she wanted to live as well as work. A year later, they moved to Hudson and bought the building from Tom Rose. As a result, Dave Knoke, is a tenant of Madigan's. Both businesses are located in what was known for years as the Lynn Rose building.

When Knoke opened Knoke's Chocolates as a family business, he was already a resident of Hudson.

Over the decade, both agree they have seen changes and some minor bumps in the road.

"We tried men's clothing for a while," said Madigan. "The biggest change came three years ago, when we added Dilly Dally in the Alley gift shop. It is a real nice addition and our customers love it."

Early on Madigan teamed up with local personal trainer Diane Oliveri to do fundraising style shows.

"We did that for several years for the Hudson Hospital," said Madigan. Now they do a spring and fall show, the funds of which go to a high school scholarship.

"Over the years we have changed a lot with different vendors," said Madigan. "It is based on what we are selling."

This (2010) has been a great year for Elan, according to Madigan, who admits the last couple of years were tough. She and Knoke realize they have reached a milestone for independent businesses and look to a future where they continue to enjoy success.

"We both want to do something for the community," said Madigan,

"We are inviting local groups to come to Locust Street and show the community what they do or promote their cause," said Madigan. "It can be a fundraising event for them or just a fun informational and promotional opportunity." The Community Market will be held July 31

"It is a nice street to be on," said Knoke. "It is a bit like a bite of American Pie."

Knoke, a graduate of UW-River Falls, admits he is a farm boy at heart. In fact when his family opened then Knoke Confections, his career as a livestock commodities broker was about as far away from making fine chocolates as one could imagine. Over time the business grew and he left his livestock job and joined his wife Jeannine in the business.

"We had a consultant, who helped us get started," said Knoke, who soon realized he had a talent for creating candy and chocolate. Five years ago the business became solely under his ownership, when the couple divorced, and by then he was hooked.

"I was just pretty good at it," said Knoke. "I like to do something, get it done and have it look good. I like to take 10 pounds of sugar and 10 pounds of butter and in six hours I have 10 trays of English toffee. It is just satisfying."

"I work -- that's my hobby," said Knoke, who admits he has a hard time going home and relaxing if he knows there is something to be done. Today, he creates over 60 different chocolates and candies right in the shop.

"A lot of my ideas come from customers," said Knoke. "I like to take things in bits and pieces to see if it works."

"I'm a blue collar candy store," said Knoke. "I still like to come to work every day." While over the years the store has evolved from a kids theme to an adult theme, going from pink boxes to gold and changing the décor, kids are still at the heart of his business.

"That is one of the reasons Locust Street is so great," said Knoke. When he first opened the store critics said he should have been on Main Street. "Locust Street is an asset. It is like Mayberry. Kids can walk downtown. Parking is great and we have terrific customers."

"We have come to the point where it is nice to thank our customers," said Knoke. "If it wasn't for the community, that is our customer base, we wouldn't be here."

Both Madigan and Knoke agree Locust Street has a lot to offer and has been a stable business community for some time, with some businesses having been in the same location over 30 years.

"Because we can close the street and do events on it, it gives us a unique opportunity," said Knoke.

"We are working with the Star-Observer and the St. Croix Historical Society to get historical information. If you have or had a business on Locust Street call me and let me know how many years you were in business," said Madigan.

The Community Market will be held July 31. If your community group wants to participate you may call Madigan at (715) 381-84245 or Knoke at (715) 381-9866.

"We hope this will become an annual event," said Madigan.

In conjunction with the Community Market, another Locust Street business, The Hudson Star-Observer is holding a photo contest. Winners will be on display on July 31.