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This Christmas, why not shop where you live?

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River Falls, 54022

River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Local customers have always been a priority with Hudson-area business people and never more so than now.

By all accounts, business is booming in our little town, and whether they have been around for 30 years or three, owners and retailers want the community to know they appreciate the local shoppers.

Jean Iverson is the owner of lavender thymes, 512 Second St., and has been in business in downtown Hudson for more than 20 years. She began building gift baskets in her garage in 1985. As orders for her baskets grew, so did demand for the individual products in them. She opened a small retail space on Second Street with a small amount of inventory and an open mind.

"People would come in and ask if I was going out of business, not just starting up. I told them I was waiting to hear what they wanted me to sell, and that was my big marketing plan. It isn't by the book, but it worked," said Iverson, who has three times remodeled and increased the size of her store.

Today Iverson's shop is a lesson in cross merchandising, carrying everything from "fashion-forward" clothing to a large selection of foodstuffs, jewelry, kitchen items, bath and body products up to and including a steaming hot latte. The store inventory ranges in price from a few dollars to a hundred or more, something for everyone and every need, according to Iverson. "Those sales of $3 and $5 items are just as important as the bigger ticket things. They all matter to us."

Iverson said that from the beginning the base of her business has been local shoppers. She estimates they make up more than 75 percent of her customers. That number used to be as high as 95 percent but recently visitor traffic to Hudson has increased. "But most of us downtown know that our base comes from Hudson. This is first and foremost a community where a lot of us live and work and raise our families. It will never be 100 percent a tourist town, but there is room for everybody. But for us, the hometown traffic is what keeps our business alive."

Iverson said she is pleased to see development going on all over the Hudson area, but she has never considered being anywhere but downtown. She is also a believer in giving back to the customers and the community that shop with her and to that end supports and participates in a wide variety of events and programs that benefit Hudson.

"Experience is the best teacher in this business, and experience has taught me that you support a community that supports you."

The bike place

Art Doyle's Spokes and Pedals at 607 Second St. has been downtown even longer than lavender thymes, having opened its doors on Second Street in 1984.

Art Doyle's interest in biking began when he was 15, and he has seen the sport through highs and lows and highs again over the years. He worked as a bike mechanic for many years before he decided to take the risk and open his own shop. And it was a risk, especially the decision to locate in downtown Hudson. There wasn't much retail going on in downtown back then, and the town was known more for its hospitality trade than anything else.

But as is often the case, timing was everything. Dave Filipiak of Hudson was thinking about getting out of his small bike shop in town about the time Doyle was thinking of getting into one.

Doyle echoes Iverson when it comes to marketing his new business. "I knew enough about bikes and cyclists and I listened to what they wanted in a shop. We hit the right combination, and things took off."

Within six years of opening, Doyle was looking for more space and went from 500 square feet to 7,400 in his present location. He purchased the building and "grew as our customers allowed. All in all, things have gone well."

Like Iverson, Doyle says he wants his customers to find what they need regardless of whether they are an experienced, competitive cyclist or looking for their son or daughter's first trike. Along with the complete spectrum of bikes, Spokes and Pedals has helmets, clothing and equipment and is the place to find anything you need when it comes to Scouting - boys or girls.

Doyle estimates that his business is 80 percent local with some customers coming from the Twin Cities and as far away as Eau Claire and Menomonie. The fun for him these days is seeing the customers who came to him when they were kids now coming back to buy their children's first bikes.

He is also well known throughout the community for his support over the years of everything from area bike races to the Girls Night Out, Hot Air Affair and the Tour of Homes. He even provided the Hudson Police Department the rides for their bike patrol.

"The personal and professional - it's all part of life. We support the community because it's the right thing to do. What is good for the people who live here is good for us," said Doyle.

Doyle refers to the growth in downtown Hudson over the past several years as a "happy evolution." He always had faith that downtown would be successful. "I mean, we are in this very nice spot and shops like Abigail Page and Elan and the others, they all bring people downtown, and some of them might stop in here. You just never know, but it has to be a good thing."

Hudson has élan

Five years ago when Sandy Madigan was looking for a place to open her business, her hairdresser suggested she look at Hudson. She went from her appointment in Woodbury across the river and into downtown and knew she had found the right place.

Elan is a women's clothing and accessory store that now also carries some men's clothing. For many locals, the store's location at 218 Locust St. seems fitting since it is the same spot long occupied by another Hudson dress shop, Lynn Rose.

Madigan, who came from Spring Lake Park, Minn., said she and husband Tom had a feel right from the start that downtown Hudson was on the verge of some real and positive change. "It was more intuitive than anything else. We could feel things were changing, and it was someplace we wanted to be."

Like her colleagues, Madigan says her customers drive the style of her store. While she admits to having "a passion for fashion," she works hard to find not only what she likes but what she believes will appeal to her customers, the majority of whom live in Hudson.

She strives to make Elan a comfortable place with merchandise for a wide variety of tastes and budgets. "I once had a customer come in and say she was having a bad day and she just came by because she always felt good when she came in. That's the kind of thing you just love to hear."

Madigan and other downtown business people have spearheaded the new Hudson Independent Business Association, a group that promotes local patronage as a means of keeping the community strong. "Spending locally is important for us all - for our customers and for other businesses. We have to show up for each other and keep it local."

Business is blooming

The Hudson Flower Shop at 222 Locust St. is one of downtown Hudson's older retail businesses. It has been in operation at the same location since 1946. Shelli Erck has been the owner for the past nine years.

Erck originally considered a career in law and politics but chose a more organic career after working at flower shops all through school. "Flowers are just this great thing. You fall in love with them and that's that."

Erck said when she was looking for a shop, she saw an ad in the paper for a shop in Hudson. She met former owner Arlette Jorgenson, they hit it off, and Erck became the shop's new owner.

Her business, as well, is primarily local. While much of her business is holiday driven, the trade is rounded out with special-occasion work like weddings and funerals along with the "everyday stuff" that happens throughout the year.

Erck said her location is very important to the business and to her local and loyal clientele. "It is an important part of our identity and it is a great community of people to be involved with."

Erck, too, is involved in a variety of activities and organizations that benefit the community as well as her business. She has been Chamber of Commerce Member of the Year, chairman of the Chamber's retail committee, a member of HIBA and the noon Rotary Club.

"It's about supporting the people who support me. It all ends up in a better quality of life for all of us.

A car for Christmas

It might be hard to wrap, but Dave Holt of Dave Holt Ford thinks it is worth considering. He is also a member of HIBA and knows firsthand the importance of shopping locally.

Holt has been in the car business for 31 years and today his is the only locally owned and operated car dealership in Hudson. For 12 years his dealership was in downtown Hudson where Seasons on St. Croix is now located. In 1986 he moved his business to the fledgling business district south of I-94 known as "the hill."

Holt said the decision to move out of downtown was driven by the need for additional space for growing business and was the logical thing to do. With growth all around him in downtown, on the hill and well beyond it, Holt said Hudson is fortunate to have maintained that small-town feeling. He believes the St. Croix River is an important part of the town's identity.

"We are fortunate to have the river as an asset. That, along with our proximity to the Twin Cities, has allowed our small town to prosper and grow where other, more rural places have tended to stagnate. We've adjusted to the Wal-Marts and Targets and the rest of it, and the best days appear to be in front of us."

Holt said Hudson's success is due to the commitment of its independent business owners to maintain their identity and co-exist with the larger chains. He also says the work of area business development groups and the city has promoted a better tax base, which helps attract business to Hudson.

And even though his business is on the hill these days, he remains a loyal fan of downtown Hudson, pointing out that his former location has been a starting-off point for several successful ventures including a bank, a glass company and the now popular Seasons.

"There's both stability and growth downtown, and that makes it a draw anytime. We can be proud of that."

For more information about shopping in Hudson this holiday season, contact the Chamber of Commerce at (715) 386-8411 or www.hudsonwi.org.

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