Downtown Baraboo touts growth

April 2, 2019

With membership rising, events turning profits and businesses expanding, downtown Baraboo’s merchant group predicts ongoing growth.

On Friday, Downtown Baraboo Inc. held its annual meeting at Baraboo Arts Convention Center. Board members shared good news with the membership.

“We’re expecting a strong year,” board member Todd Wickus said. “Things are really happening downtown.”

DBI won the Baraboo Area Chamber of Commerce’s tourism award earlier this year and plays a prominent role in an upcoming “Discover Wisconsin” episode featuring the community.

Meanwhile, the business group’s events — art fairs, wine walks and others — helped DBI generate nearly $156,000 in revenue. The fall Fair on the Square was the biggest in the 28-year-old event’s history, and the spring wine walk’s slots for sipping sites already are full.

“The fairs are getting back to where they used to be,” Wickus said.

DBI President Deirdre Marshall noted Countryside Refind moved to a larger downtown storefront this year and added a secondary location at Slumberland. Etcetera has expanded to fill two Third Street storefronts, and Baraboo Toy Soldier Shoppe plans to move from its second-level starter space to a street-level storefront this summer. DBI added a dozen members last year.

“We’ve got a lot of businesses downtown that are getting bigger,” Marshall said. “Everybody wants to be downtown.”

Mary Hultman, who organizes and promotes downtown events, said Circus World brought 80,000 visitors to town last year and Al. Ringling Theatre tours attracted 1,200 guests. “These people are coming into our restaurants and our shops and our gas stations,” Hultman said.

In the coming year, merchants will turn their attention to rolling out the Discover Real Baraboo marketing campaign, a partnership among the Chamber of Commerce, the city of Baraboo, village of West Baraboo and DBI. Vice President Lacey Steffes encouraged members to use popular Instagram hashtags — such as #devilslake — to tap into large social media audiences. “Exponentially, if we work together, it makes us that much stronger,” she said.