Powered by Lynxx Networks’ fiber optic Internet – a key piece of the economic growth puzzle for rural communities – the Tee Pee Building is breathing new life into downtown Tomah, and the reverberations are being felt in a variety of ways across the community and beyond.
This spring, it will be one year since a new development opened its doors in the spot where Tomah’s Tee Pee Supper Club once stood.
The almost block-long, three story, mixed-use property, named the Tee Pee Building after its predecessor on the block, is the brain child of 3rd Gen LLC. In many ways, the new development has become a centerpiece of downtown Tomah – serving as both a tribute to the past and a key piece of the community’s future. The development has brought new life to Tomah’s downtown in a number of ways in the less than 12 months it’s been open, and serves as an example of how just one key element can spur downtown revitalization in rural America.
“I’ve talked with people who don’t live in Tomah, but have worked with Gerke, and (they’ve) said its cool what you guys did with this, adding that they wished their community would do something like this (development),” said Kim Voigt of 3rd Gen LLC.
Within the Tomah community, Voigt said she thinks the new development is causing others in the downtown area to be more aware of their storefronts.
“The Artisan Market and All Things Amish have opened their doors in downtown Tomah, and there are new streetlights downtown…. slowly but surely changes are being made,” Voigt said.
The Tee Pee Building contains the restaurant Murray’s on Main, 11 apartments, and commercial office space. At this point, almost all the ground floor commercial space has been filled, and the majority of the apartments have been rented. The second floor still has three commercial units available for anyone wanting a nice office view of downtown Tomah.
The building is also powered by Lynxx Networks fiber optic Internet – a selling point for Voigt when showing commercial and residential spaces.
“It is very important to our commercial customers to know they can have the fastest Internet available at a great price… and to the third floor residents to have the ability to stream whatever they want,” she said, adding that when showing, “I go into how much faster the Internet is than any other in town, and the customer service is great.”
While the many benefits of the Tee Pee Building are evident now, back in 2016 when planning for the $11 million development, 3rd Gen took the risk because of what the Tee Pee Supper Club had meant to the community, and because they had the resources to make the changes.
“Everyone who lives in Tomah has some memory of the Tee Pee from the past; it was a huge part of Tomah’s history,” Voigt said, adding that personally, the Tee Pee Supper Club was an important place for her company, as Gerke Excavating held their Christmas party each year at the restaurant.
After being owned for years by Ed Thompson, the Tee Pee restaurant was sold and, after the business failed under new management, the building sat empty for a few years until 3rd Gen stepped in.
“It got to the point where you couldn’t work with the existing building,” Voigt said of the dis-repair the building was in. “We thought, we have a good relationship with contractors and we have the ability to tear the building down and do the excavation. We wanted to make that place a gathering point again – what it was in the past.”
Almost one year in, the success of the Tee Pee Building speaks to a broader trend in Voigt’s opinion – a trend that, when the right pieces are in play, will help to bring life back to rural America’s downtowns. Voigt sees more and more people moving away from malls and big-box retailers and going back to individual stores, owned by local members of a community.
“You can buy from Amazon, but they don’t support local,” Voigt said. “It’s important to support the local people; it’s important to remember your roots.”
(Left) Katie Kopplin stands outside her Camp Douglas business, The Avant-Garde Oil Enthusiast and Health Motivator. (Top right) Participants at an Instant Pot Cooking Class and (bottom right) a Beer & Wine and Yoga Class.
Entrepreneur Katie Kopplin has taken her small business from online to brick and mortar in downtown Camp Douglas, and the opening has the potential to have a big impact on a small town.
Over the past several years the Village of Camp Douglas board and staff have devoted time and energy to revamping their community’s downtown – an “if you prepare it, they will come” mentality, if you will.
The efforts are in response to the position that small towns across rural America – the village included – have found themselves in: struggling to retain a vibrant downtown center.
“Downtowns have been either dying away or transforming for the last few decades,” said Juneau County Economic Development Coordinator Terry Whipple. “Without a somewhat vibrant center of town, it becomes no different than living in a suburb.”
With an overarching goal of bringing people and businesses to the community, in the last several years, the village of Camp Douglas has made visual and structural improvements to its downtown area; sought out grant money to help with the projects; offered assistance for residents who were willing to make improvements to their properties; and spent the last several years building an Armed Forces Days concert event that has grown into a regional attraction.
“I don’t doubt if growth is possible. I know that whatever technology-based equipment I acquire in the future, if it needs a high-speed Internet connection, I know I have the option to do that.” Katie Kopplin Owner, The Avant-Garde Oil Enthusiast and Health Motivator
And while all of the above help the cause, thriving downtowns still need destination points. Last fall, the village of Camp Douglas hit the jackpot in the destination point department when entrepreneur Katie Kopplin took her business, The Avant-Garde Oil Enthusiast and Health Motivator, from online to brick and mortar, opening her store in the former Royal Bank building.
“As downtowns change in nature from merchant bastions to entertainment/education/niche establishments, entrepreneurs will lead the way,” Whipple said.
The Avant-Garde Oil Enthusiast and Health Motivator offers Camp Douglas all of the above: entertainment, education and a niche establishment, and behind it all, an entrepreneur with a big vision to bring something to the community that goes beyond her own offerings.
Kopplin’s storefront showcases her products, which range from all-natural soaps and shower bombs to oil diffuser bracelets and necklaces; oils and custom oil blends; crystal jewelry; and even a new line of earrings; but it also provides a platform for local entrepreneurs.
“I promised myself that (when I opened my store) I’d give local entrepreneurs a place to debut their talents and what they believe in,” Kopplin said, adding that she understands how challenging it can be when you don’t have your own space.
“Before the storefront, I did so many events and craft fairs,” she said. “Between the loading it all up, taking it somewhere, setting up, tear down… it got to be a lot. I wanted to make (my store) a convenient place for people to find me.”
Much More Than a Storefront
In addition to providing a place for small business folks like herself to showcase their wares (Kork & Dar tea towels and beeswax wraps can be found on her shelves) Katie is already using her storefront to offer classes in a community where typically people have to drive to find the same thing elsewhere. So far, her store has hosted Zumba and Yoga fitness classes; a pop-up shop for Sparta business Urban Nest and Lizzy’s Boutique; and an instant pot cooking class; in addition to make-and-take classes for items ranging from cheese cutting boards to Christmas gnomes and oil diffuser bracelets.
“I want to provide options for people to take advantage of and to bring new people into the Camp Douglas area,” Kopplin said, adding that she’s heard people say they didn’t even know there’s a downtown Camp Douglas.
From a Passion to a Business
Katie’s own passion for her Camp Douglas-based business stems from her own experiences. She grew up in this area and desires to give back to the community that she says has molded her into the person she is today. Her desire to offer complimentary supportive therapy through her own line of oils and oil diffusers stems from her father. Katie initially got into oils while exploring a holistic approach to treating her father’s Parkinson’s symptoms.
“He was a science teacher, so we share a common interest in rocks and minerals,” Katie said. “I made him a bracelet for his Parkinson’s and that pushed me to research complimentary supportive therapy.”
That research, which Katie began over five years ago, snowballed into The Avant-Garde Oil Enthusiast and Health Motivator, the small business she launched three years ago.
Today, whether it’s through her complimentary supportive therapies or health and fitness classes, Katie likes that she’s able to tie a health aspect into her Camp Douglas storefront offerings.
“The education and information I provide – people tell me they’re thankful for that,” Kopplin said.
And her customers aren’t the only ones appreciating the focus on holistic health. It turns out, these types of businesses play a key role in downtown revitalization efforts.
Whipple said that’s because new, entrepreneur lead businesses such as The Avant-Garde Oil Enthusiast and Health Motivator, offer much more than just products
“They find their niche in alternative health, education in health, and health coaching,” he said, adding that, “great entrepreneurs are good at finding their way, and small downtowns are the beneficiary of that traffic.”
Looking To the Future
As Katie’s business grows, it could end up attracting other businesses in the same avenues. Whipple said other health-related and alternative heath businesses do well when clustered in the same area. He mused that bed and breakfasts and other establishments that provide restful get-aways for the stressed could come about as a result of what has been started in Camp Douglas.
Regardless of what businesses may take up residence between the bluffs, Katie said she and others are well positioned thanks to the Internet connectivity Lynxx Networks provides. Whipple has long been an advocate of the importance of high speed internet in rural communities, saying it is imperative to the future growth of small towns. Katie echoed his sentiments.
“I know that whatever technology-based devices or equipment I acquire in the future, if it needs a high speed internet connection, I know I have the option to do that,” she said of the presence of Lynxx Networks fiber optic Internet. “I don’t doubt if growth is possible, because with Lynxx Networks, running any piece of technology-based equipment is possible.”
Looking to the future, Katie would like to continue to use her storefront to bring people to Camp Douglas, and with the warmer months on the horizon, she’s already tossing around a number of ways to do just that.
“I want to offer outdoor vendor events in my parking lot because it’s close to the bike trail and gets people who use the trail to filter down into the downtown area,” Kopplin said, adding that outdoor farmer’s and vendor markets are definite possibilities.
“So many people are OK with how something is,” she said. “They’ll travel to areas where they need or want something instead of thinking it could happen in their hometown. I try to bring something different to my store that isn’t the same as other small, local businesses because I want everyone to succeed.”
Lynxx now covers 70 miles along the 1-90 corridor, spanning three counties. that’s a lot of ground, which makes for a lot of business customers on our network. we’re using our business newsletter as a platform for our customers to introduce themselves to each other (and talk about how lynxx service has impacted their business). this quarter, we sat down with Brenden Kehren of Kehren development in Sparta.
Q: Give an overview of what you do at Kehren Development.
A: We build web sites and software, focusing on backend development, with frontend optimizations with search engines. This includes web sites, applications for desktops, mobile applications, etc. Approximately 85 percent of the time we’re focused on web sites; the other 15 percent goes to mobile applications.
Q: How long have you been in business?
A: Since 2004. It was just me until three years ago. Two years ago we opened at our Sparta storefront; it made sense from a business standpoint. We now have 5 employees.
Q: Who are your clients?
A: We do every vertical of business you can think of – banks, manufacturing companies, non-profits, global clients… we do a mix of everything. Most of our clients are regional in the four or five state area, but we also serve clients across the nation and world.
Q: Give an example of a client success story.
A: Massey Ferguson. We redesigned their web site and added more search engine optimization for them. They’ve seen a 10 percent increase in page views each month for the last three months.
We also have a nursing home client with nine locations in the New Jersey area. We redesigned their web site in 2013. They hadn’t done anything with their web site in the eight years prior to that, and since the redesign, they are seeing an increase in page views at a rate of 13 percent per month. It’s great for them because their focus is on educating people on end-of-life care, but in the process, people are seeing them as an end-of-life option.
Q: What do you enjoy about working in this field?
A: The best thing is being able to find a problem and fix it. To go out and identify issues people are having with their site and provide a solution, and know they’re going to be happy with it – that’s sales enough for me.
Kehren Development CEO, Brenden Kehren, stands outside his Sparta storefront. The company, which specializes in web design and development, along with digital marketing, is located at 415 W. Wisconsin Street in Sparta. Kehren Development is a Certified Kentico Developer, and Brenden was recently honored as a “2020 Kentico MVP.” Every year Kentico selects individuals from their technical community who go to great lengths to help others and share their experience with the world. Brenden was selected (for the fifth year now) from a world-wide search.
Q: What has having Lynxx Networks as your Internet provider done for your business?
A: When we moved into this building the only service we could get here was CenturyLink. Having them previously, I was very disappointed. We tried to get Charter in here and they told me they couldn’t get the line from the street back to our building for four and a half months. (Lynxx Networks CEO) Jim Costello stopped in here while visiting another customer in the area and said Lynxx could have something in here in 30 days.
Having Lynxx Networks internet has increased our production because we have symmetrical upload and download speeds. We do a lot of upload and are more productive thanks to Lynxx because we aren’t sitting and waiting. Outages were happening constantly with CenturyLink and Charter, but with Lynxx, we just don’t have issues with the internet being down. (The ability to be) more efficient is huge for us.
Statistics suggest almost 60% of companies have experienced cyber attackssuch as DDoS attacks, phishing, and social engineering attacks.
Additionally, research shows that small and medium size businesses make up 13% of the entire cyber crime market, yet surprisingly they minimally invest in cyber
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3RT Networks takes a layered approach to cyber security. A proper risk management plan incorporates a framework of multiple solutions to effectively protect your business or organization from unauthorized access to data center and computerized resources. 3RT Networks aligns with security vendors that incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze data to predict and contain threats before they comprise your infrastructure.
Engage 3RT Networks to complete a NIST Cyber Security Framework review or schedule a security assessment to quickly obtain a view of your organization’s risk exposure.
- Security Assessment
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So you have Lynxx Networks fiber-fast Internet powering your business. You have probably noticed the immediate benefits with quick-loading web pages and improved upload /download time. But did you know that the speed of our fiber Internet is benefitting your business in ways that you might not notice every day? Here’s a quick list.
1. Internet Speed Boosts Efficiency.
Wasted time is wasted money. If 5 percent of an employee’s day is wasted waiting around for slow internet, that adds up to 50 hours per year. Then multiply that by the number of employees… that’s a lot of hours paid in exchange for no work getting done. The simple solution: a faster connection.
2. Fast Internet in the Work Place Helps to Alleviate Stress.
Let’s face it, a slow Internet connection when you’re trying to accomplish something is extremely frustrating. Why add one more stressor to life when it can be easily eliminated by a faster Internet connection?
3. A Fast Internet Connection Simplifies File Sharing.
Do you use the Cloud? A fast internet connection takes the wait out of the Cloud upload/download time. In addition, file sharing platforms like Google Docs and video conferencing platforms like Skype are utilized much more effectively with a faster, stronger Internet connection.
4. Fast Broadband Helps to Enable Tele-commuting.
A fast broadband connection makes it easier to enable a VPN, (virtual private network) and having a VPN offers employees the option to work remotely.
Flexible work environments can lead to happier employees, plus tele-commuting reduces commute costs and the carbon footprint.
Sources: Small Biz Trends.com & BusinessPartnerMagazine.com