Willy Street merchants rally to support Monroe Street businesses during reconstruction

August 18, 2018

Business owners on Williamson Street can easily relate to the massive and disruptive street reconstruction project underway across town on Monroe Street.

In 2011, a nearly $7 million project limited traffic to one direction, clogged Williamson Street with orange barrels, barricades and heavy equipment for months and made it difficult on the bottom line for retailers, restaurants and other businesses along the popular isthmus corridor.

That’s why Fire Light Group and Yellow Dog Productions, both housed at 1035 Williamson St., have launched a campaign designed to encourage Willy Street shoppers to visit Monroe Street businesses.

The “Willy Supports Monroe” project has recruited over a dozen businesses in the Willy Street neighborhood to put up flyers in their stores and offer Monroe Street Bingo cards, which offer discounts after visits to Monroe Street stores. In addition, the campaign also includes an entry in the Willy Street Fair & Parade on Sept. 16, in which a banner touting “Willy St. Supports Monroe St.” will be carried on the parade route.

“It’s very challenging,” Sandra Daniel, president and CEO of Fire Light Group said of street reconstruction projects. “Willy Street went through it a few years ago and Atwood is going to go through it and so we just want to draw attention to the fact that it’s not just Monroe (Street) merchants that care about Monroe (Street) businesses.”

Fire Light Group is a company that helps companies develop programs to engage and retain employees and business partners while Yellow Dog Productions is a video production company that does a broad range of work including films, commercials, non-profit work and music videos.

The $21 million Monroe Street reconstruction project stretches from Camp Randall to Odana Road and is scheduled to be finished by mid-November. Work includes new sewer and water mains, curb and gutter, sidewalk, improved lighting and traffic signals, and is being done in a single construction season. The city had originally proposed a two-year project, but with two-way traffic. However, merchants asked the city to shorten the timeline in an effort to contain the inconveniences to a single spring, summer and fall. But accommodating that request means only one lane of inbound traffic.

The Monroe Street Merchants Association hired a part-time public relation professional to help promote the corridor and help create programming designed to draw customers to the street.

All 1,000 Survive & Thrive Construction Kits, $10 pouches that include 30 coupon cards for Monroe Street businesses, were sold while Monroe Street Bingo requires customers to get a sticker at Monroe Street businesses. When a row of a bingo card is filled, it can be turned into participating businesses for a prize, like a cupcake from Bloom, a truffle from Infusion Chocolates or a $5 gift card from Orange Tree Imports. Three Sheeps Brewing Co. in Sheboygan even created “One Way IPA” a beer that is only being sold only on Monroe Street in an effort to show support for the neighborhood during the reconstruction project.

The efforts by Willy Street businesses are helping to add to the support and promotion.

“It’s about a call to action,” said Mary Zinn, director of sales at Yellow Dog Productions. “I know the Monroe Street merchants are trying to keep a positive spin, which is great, but people don’t understand the possible consequences that are happening by people wanting to avoid the mess over on Monroe Street. Some of these businesses could be hurt quite seriously.”

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