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Getting to Know 3 Local Businesses

By Ernie Reppe

It’s an exciting time to be a small business owner in Eau Claire. With the resurgence of downtown and an increased pride in our city, consumers across the Valley are looking to shop local. And there’s no better time to shop local than Small Business Saturday, which takes place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving each year. Shopping local not only keeps more dollars in the Chippewa Valley, but it also strengthens our sense of community.  I had the chance to connect with four entrepreneurs and ask them a few questions about being a small business owner in Eau Claire. What blew me away about these individuals, besides their ability to provide unique and high-quality goods, is their desire to connect with the community and their gratitude for the opportunity to serve you. I’d like to introduce you to Jon Shemick, Becca Cooke, and Troy and Elaina Hoyt.


Owned by Jon Shemick. 217 N. Barstow, Eau Claire, WI. Open 11am - 6pm Tuesday - Saturday.

What do you sell at Good & Sturdy Vintage?

I sell vintage clothing, some mid-century and industrial home furnishings, art objects and old stuff.

What was your vision for starting Good & Sturdy Vintage? And why a storefront in Eau Claire instead of online?

In the late 1990s I was selling clothes to established vintage clothing stores in Minneapolis.  Around the same time I began selling vintage bicycle parts, and eventually clothing, on eBay. I continued to buy, sell and learn in that way for more than a decade until I had amassed a large collection and the confidence to consider opening my own shop. Selling online is a great way to reach an enormous customer base, but I have found it lacks a personal aspect. Having a physical space to showcase my collection creates an experience for people that they can't have online, and gives me an opportunity to interact with my customers in a way that I never could before. I get an enormous amount of satisfaction from saving a unique piece and putting it directly into the hands of someone who truly appreciates it. And doing that in the town that I grew up in, that's the icing on the cake.

What's your favorite part of being a business owner in the Chippewa Valley?

I feel incredibly honored to be doing what I do here, at this time. I not only get to have my dream job, but I feel like I'm contributing to our downtown renaissance. There's an energy right now that is palpable, and I feel so fortunate to be able to riff off of that. It's a great time to have a small business in Eau Claire.


Owned by Becca Cooke. 224 N. Dewey St., Eau Claire, WI. Holiday hours: 10am - 6:00pm Monday - Sunday.

I understand that you graduated from Eau Claire North and left the area for college. What stirred you to come back to the Valley and launch Red's?

I worked in politics all over the country and came back to Eau Claire after working in Southern California for two years. I came back to be closer to family and to live more of a lifestyle that reflected who I am. When I first moved home I started a political consulting firm and had at the height of that five clients in the last year while trying to run Red's at the same time. Originally when starting Red's, I saw an ad for the location on Craigslist and thought about what I could do there. I have actually always wanted to start a restaurant, but a retail shop seemed more of the right fit, given the building and my experience running a business. I have always wanted to start a business and had a savings I've been growing for a while. Red's was born out of that desire to do something on my own that incorporated values that are important to me.

I saw on Instagram that you're launching the Red Letter grant, which will be awarded annually to a female entrepreneur in Eau Claire. Tell us more about this and your inspiration behind it.

When I first started Red's it was hard to find someone to talk to that I could ask what felt like silly questions - questions on payroll, taxes, Eau Claire customer habits, etc. I realized what I was really lacking was a mentor. There aren't really that many women business owners here in Eau Claire and so it was hard to find someone that I felt like I could vibe with and feel vulnerable enough to answer the tricky things - or maybe the things I should have already known. So that's number one, the lack of women mentors/women in leadership here in Eau Claire. Number two, I was having a lot of conversations with shop customers and gals who I've met through farmers markets or pop up shops Red's has participated in. Women who have wanted to start their own businesses but have a fear about financial risk, and I think that is what primarily inhibits women from starting a business is that fear of failure - especially on a financial front. I know so many women who have a creative business, but they do it on the side of their "real job." I'm hoping this will be a catalyst to women to make their side job their full-time gig. Fifteen percent of sales from a special section on our website and in store goes towards the grant. We have about $200 raised so far from the sales of those goods. That number will increase the more women choose to buy those goods - so it's really the people powering this initiative.

What's your favorite part of being a business owner in the Chippewa Valley?

I would say the customers and people I get to meet. I have loved working with other small business owners we've been inviting in for our pop-ups - learning about their stories and sharing a camaraderie as we navigate our early years of business. My customers are amazing. They're teachers, ad executives, moms, daughters, students - each one with a unique story that I've been able to learn throughout their visits to the shop. You really get a sense of the fabric of our town.


Owned by Troy and Elaina Hoyt. 309 E. Grand Ave., Eau Claire, WI. Winter hours: 6:00am - 11:30am Tuesday & Wednesday, 6:00am - 1:00pm Thursday & Friday, 7:30am - 2:00pm Saturday.

I read that you and your wife, Elaina, dreamed up the idea for Soul Brewed Coffee Roasters while backpacking the Appalachian Trail in 2015. What inspired you two on that trip?

Correct! I'm not exactly sure what inspired us... We really benefited from some time to ourselves - to work on our marriage, spend time together as a family (we had our dog Bella with us), pray, explore, meet lots of cool strangers and hike, of course. We got poured on for two weeks straight. There was a hurricane down there, which we didn't know at the time. After the rain we had a few weeks of pure sunshine. We came back to Eau Claire feeling really refreshed. As far as inspiration goes I think it was just the outdoors and our love for being outside. It puts you in touch with your emotions and God’s creation... Helps you think straight and prioritize the important things in life. It really wasn't an easy trip, we were challenged a lot, but it was so much fun.

Tell us what makes your coffee shop unique from others in the Valley.

What makes Soul Brewed different is that we offer an extremely personal experience. When you come to our shop you either deal with me or my wife, the only two people involved in Soul Brewed. You see the work that goes into it and the results of that hard work. Also if your timing is right, you can have coffee that was literally just roasted.

What's your favorite part of being a business owner in the Chippewa Valley?

Our favorite part is that we feel like we are included in the sort of "boom" taking place with all the new businesses and ideas. The coffee culture was not really in existence a couple of years ago in the Chippewa Valley, so it's cool to kind of pioneer that movement along with the Eau Claire Coffee Club as well. There are tons of great folks in Eau Claire.

Friends, there are hundreds of other small business owners in the Chippewa Valley with unique stories just like these individuals, and they are waiting to connect with and serve you. I encourage you to get out and shop local and, if you want, share your experience on social media using the hashtag #ShopSmall and #CaptureEC.