Tuesday, Nov. 13th, 2018

Pablo Properties Purchases Racy's, The Nucleus

The Racy's half of Racy D’Lene’s Coffee Lounge and The Nucleus Café

A pet-welcoming, art-sporting Water St. breakfast, brunch, and coffee hotspot has new ownership as of Tuesday this week. Pablo Properties purchased Racy D’Lene’s Coffee Lounge and The Nucleus Café at 404 Riverside Ave. and 405 Water Street on Nov. 12. If you’re a regular, fear not for your brews and tasty breakfast cocktails: the new ownership says they’re not in it to mix things up.  “We do not intend to make any significant changes,” Zach Halmstad, Pablo Properties partner, said. “The staff, menu, prices, and environment will all stay the same.” However, the company does intend to explore expanding the use of local and sustainable ingredients and improving employee benefits, according to a press release.  “When we were approached about taking it over, we were excited for the opportunity to be the next stewards of this institution,” Halmstad said. “We are excited to welcome the employees to the Pablo Family and to continue the long tradition of feeding and caffeinating Eau Claire.”

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Monday, Nov. 12th, 2018

Good Times, Bad Art: A one-day music fest at the Pablo for locals, by locals

EVERYBODY’S SHOW. FM Down (above) are the minds behind the Bad Art Music Festival, at which three local bands – The Gossips, Ghosts of the Sun, and FM Down themselves – will be releasing new music.
EVERYONE'S SHOW. FM Down (above) are the minds behind the Bad Art Music Festival, at which three local bands – The Gossips, Ghosts of the Sun, and FM Down themselves – will be releasing new music.

‘We are the musicians, the performers, and the appreciators of the Chippewa Valley music scene. And this is our festival.”

That lines comes near the end of a promo video (see below) for the upcoming Bad Art Music Festival, which will take place in the Jamf Theatre at the Pablo Center Nov. 23. Of course the “bad art” part is tongue-in-cheek: The art taking place that night will in fact be objectively “good.” But the whole point of the one-night fest is for it to be a musical bill stacked with locals, organized by locals, and championed by the local music scene itself. It’s a pretty iconic team-up from some of the best in the region.

The inaugural Bad Art fest comes from the minds of local rock band FM Down, who plan to release a full-length LP at the show, and they’re not the only ones. As circumstance would have it, two other bands are releasing records that night – The Gossips (a new collaborative project between songwriters Nici Peper and Brian Bethke) and Ghosts of the Sun (an alt-metal super group of sorts featuring members of No Loving Place, Mors Mortis Machinato, and Orenda Fugue). The full lineup is a good taste of some of the best music happening in town: FM Down, Gash, D. Janakey, The Gossips, Ghosts of the Sun, and Jim Pullman. And artist Steve Bateman is creating a visual “Bad Art” gallery to display at the show as well.

For Will Wall, a member of FM Down and co-organizer of the fest, the Pablo is a picturesque setting for something like this, and he finds it encouraging that independent events like this that are 100 percent ideated and executed by locals can happen there.

“The best way to utilize the room was to have it be not just our show, but everyone’s show,” Wall said. “We have a tremendous amount of talented local musicians and bands in this area, and we figured it’s time to do something to bring us all together in the new arts center, to deliver something unique.”

The FM Down record, Maybe We Could Get Somewhere If We Could Just Be Somewhere Else, tackles themes that the band has made its bread and butter: Getting older, some social commentary, and the unsettling speed at which the world is changing. It’ll also be their first album pressed to vinyl.

“It’s something we all enjoy doing,” Wall said. “And all of us have this itch that can only be scratched by writing, recording, and performing new music.”

Really, the same can be said for each band featured at the fest.

For Peper’s new project The Gossips, the partnership with Bethke came together magically. Both songwriters in their own right, they’ve each been a big part of the music scene for a long time. And their collaboration came about magically.

“It’s that crazy, swept-off-your-feet, ‘Does anyone know where we’re going?’ kind of feeling,” Peper said. “For example, there’s a point in the album where the song literally created itself – it was raining, I started reading while Brian was playing guitar and it was done in 20 minutes. We were wide-eyed. Spooked.”

The Gossips’ record Flagship is eight tracks of musical bliss and a dreamy collaboration. Or as Peper put it, it’s like “if your life were a large banana leaf and you soaked it in nectar and let it dry, then crushed it up, mixed it with pixie dust and then shook it up in a pop bottle.”

That’s the way the scene works sometimes. Musicians that are on their own path team up, and results can be glorious. That’s the nugget of an idea Wall and the gang are working with for the Bad Art fest: that by doing it together, collaborating, and support each other, amazing things can happen.

It’s no secret that incredible music is constantly being created in basements, rooms, and studios all over town. When you combine that energy with that big beautiful arts center on the river, it just might bring us all together in ways we never knew we could. Like a confluence or something.

The Bad Art Music Festival is Nov. 23 in the Jamf Theatre at the Pablo Center on the Confluence featuring FM Down, Gash, D. Janakey, The Gossips, Ghosts of the Sun, and Jim Pullman. Tickets are $10 and you can purchase them online at pablocenter.org. FM Down’s Maybe We Could Get Somewhere If We Could Just Be Somewhere Else will be available on most streaming platforms Nov. 16 and the physical release will be at the Nov. 23 show. The Gossips’ Flagship and the new EP by Ghosts of the Sun will be available at the Bad Art fest.

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Friday, Nov. 2nd, 2018

New Think Eau Claire Campaign Aims to Recruit Talent

A new community campaign is encouraging prospective residents to think about everything that Eau Claire has to offer – from a high level of civic pride to a low cost of living. The Think Eau Claire campaign is aimed squarely at recruiting workers and their families to relocate to the city. In addition to serving as a tool for employers looking to recruit talented people, Think Eau Claire is designed to tell the Eau Claire story to companies that may be interested in locating here as well.

The campaign is built around a website – ThinkEauClaire.com – launched this week by the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce and Volume One. The website is anchored by a video that expounds on Eau Claire’s assets – human, natural, economic, and artistic. ThinkEauClaire.com also features an illustrated and fact-filled guide to the city as a place to live, work, and raise a family; resources to help potential Eau Clairians find jobs and homes; and stories from people who have relocated to the community.

“Eau Claire is not a place to simply live, but a place that will genuinely reward you if you give to it,” said Wesley Escondo, who moved to Eau Claire from Chicago in 2012. “From the beauty of our landscape to the warmth of the residents that live here, Eau Claire has given my family and I a sense of pride in belonging that we didn’t feel in previous towns or cities.”

The Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce decided to create Think Eau Claire after hearing from employers large and small alike that they were facing challenges in attracting employees from outside the Chippewa Valley. In addition to serving as a general recruiting tool for Eau Claire businesses, the website and video can be customized for specific local employers who want to promote the benefits, opportunities, and cultures of their own workplaces. That can even include shooting video and interviews at individual companies to depict the cultures of their organizations. Royal Credit Union is the first local employer to do so, and will soon launch its own individualized version of Think Eau Claire. Businesses interested in customizing the website should contact Scott Rogers at the chamber at (715) 858-0616 or rogers@eauclairechamber.org.

ThinkEauClaire.com was unveiled this week during the Workforce Solutions Summit at the Pablo Center at the Confluence, an event aimed at attracting and retaining a talented workforce to Wisconsin and the Chippewa Valley. In addition to the primary website, the initiative includes Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn pages as well.

This post was produced through a partnership
with Think Eau Claire ... Learn more!

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Tuesday, Oct. 30th, 2018

Food & Wine Magazine Runs Deep Profile on Eau Claire

Mona Lisa's on Water Street (Image: VisitEauClaire.com)
Mona Lisa's on Water Street (Image: VisitEauClaire.com)

Food & Wine (a nationally syndicated, monthly magazine founded in 1978) published a remarkable profile of Eau Claire's restaurant scene on Oct. 29. The magazine – which is well-known for featuring taste-making recipes, cooking tips, travel information, restaurant reviews, and more – seems to have taken a long look at the city, acknowledging its place in small town America and its "no-bull factory town" roots, while also digging deeper to realize there's more going on than outsiders may realize. They say ...

"... it all happens in flashes, in little pockets and on certain days, or even merely at certain times of the day—this is a city with a population of just 65,000, after all, much of it geographically divorced from the city center, where so many of the most interesting things have happened, lately—the uninitiated visitor might not immediately grasp just exactly what is going on, and when they do, they might be taken by surprise, wondering how a relatively quiet town like Eau Claire could vibe so modern, so cool, and not just college cool (there’s a big state school here), but so much more than that."

Many locals may cringe when a food-n-travel writer describes how Eau Claire "vibes so modern," but hey, it's nice to be appreciated.

As usual, the writeup mentions Justin Vernon and the Eaux Claires music festival, but it seems obvious the writer (David Landsel) really actually spent some time here, and he's discovered more than the buzzworthy (and sometimes backlash-inducing) namechecks we're so used to seeing by now. 

Besides the rivers and trails and Eau Claire's downtown area, the article touches on The Lismore Hotel,  Just Local Food Cooperative, SHIFT Cyclery & Coffee Bar, The Oxbow Hotel, The Pablo Center, and the Downtown Farmers Market.

The writer goes more in depth on specific establishments like The Lakely ("a laidback restaurant elevating Midwestern favorites"), Mona Lisa's ("the city’s most essential restaurant"), Forage (a "space where very good and delicious things are happening"), The Brewing Projekt ("the outfit you will hear the most about"), and The Informalist (an "attractive, modern restaurant"). 

Getting coverage in national-level media is no longer new for Eau Claire, but you can probably count the Food & Wine feature apart from the others. This is a huge magazine and it's a glowing review. Above all else, it's yet another reminder that many, many people are working to make this city a place of which to be proud.

There's a lot of ground left for us to cover, but as mentioned, it's nice to be appreciated along the way.

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Thursday, Oct. 4th, 2018

5 Rustic Wisconsin Roads to Explore for Autumnal Awesomeness


Over the past 45 years, 120 particularly beautiful Wisconsin country roads have been officially designated Rustic Roads by the state Department of Transportation. One of the first of these is Rustic Road 6 in northeastern Chippewa County. Otherwise known as County Road E, the road runs from the junction of Highway 64 (west of Cornell) north 13.3 miles to the Rusk County line. According to the DOT’s Rustic Roads guidebook, the road follows part of the old Flambeau Trail, which was used by the region’s earliest travelers, and winds its way through county forests and the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve.


The only officially designated Rustic Road in Eau Claire County, this 2.7-mile stretch of gravel is otherwise known as Goat Ranch Road, which runs between Coon Fork County Park and County Highway H. Keep your eyes peeled for deer and other wildlife as you navigate your way through the shady depths of the Eau Claire County Forest.


Beginning at the edge of the city of Menomonie, Rustic Road 89 follows 410th and 420th streets between County Highway P and 370th Avenue. The 4.7-mile paved route traverses the bluffs and runs parallel to the Red Cedar Trail and the Red Cedar River just to the east. Along the road, stop to see the Devil’s Punchbowl, an amazing, water-carved canyon that you can explore on foot. (Bring sturdy footwear!)


About 14 miles south of Menomonie in the town of Peru is Rustic Road 107, a 6.7-mile paved and gravel route that meanders along 160th Avenue, 650th Street, and 50th Avenue between County Highway O and County Highway M. According to the guidebook, this route features “wooded areas with canopies over the road that open up to meadows and picturesque views,” including plenty of wetlands. The road follows the Chippewa River and is twice crossed by the Chippewa River State Trail. 


Expect to see plenty of wild creatures – from white-tailed deer to sandhill cranes – as you zigzag through the Clark County Forest near Neillsville. This route follows parts of Columbia Avenue, Middle Road, Fisher Avenue, Sand Road, and Bruce Mound Avenue between U.S. Highway 10 and County Highway B. According to the guidebook, you’ll see an abandoned trestle bridge over Wedges Creek and the Lone Grave Marker – “the last remaining evidence of the community of Columbia, which dates back to the 1880s.”

To learn more about these and other Rustic Roads around the state, visit wisconsindot.gov/rusticroads

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Wednesday, Oct. 3rd, 2018

Downtown Gift Shop Raggedy Man Wins Jump-Start Business Competition

Matt Pabich, owner of Raggedy Man Goods & Gifts
Matt Pabich, owner of Raggedy Man Goods & Gifts

A downtown Eau Claire gift shop featuring a wide range of affordable gifts and household items is the grand-prize winner of the 2018 Jump-Start Downtown Business Competition. Matt Pabich, owner of Raggedy Man Goods & Gifts, received the Jim Mishefske Award at an awards luncheon on Tuesday, Oct. 2. The grand prize includes $5,000 in start-up capital (courtesy of Royal Credit Union), $750 in advertising credit from the Leader-Telegram, and a brand development strategy session with JB Systems. Raggedy Man opened in April at 401 S. Barstow St.

The Jump-Start competition’s Honorable Mention award went to Tabatha Voss, proprietor of The Broom & Crow, 106 E. Grand Ave., which specializes in Pagan and New Age books, gifts, and apothecary items. The Honorable Mention includes $2,500 in start-up capital (thanks to WESTconsin Credit Union, Market & Johnson, Mayo Clinic Health System, Weld Riley, and Xcel Energy) plus a $500 credit with SpinVision, which provides virtual tours.

Finally, the Innovative Idea Award, which includes a $1,000 cash award sponsored by Jamf, went to Bibi Krumenauer for Star Cup, a bubble tea shop currently inside Oakwood Mall that is expected to expand to downtown Eau Claire in the near future.

The Jump-Start awards, now in their 14th year, are a program of Downtown Eau Claire Inc., a nonprofit organization that works to promote business, housing, and culture in downtown Eau Claire.

Five businesses applied to this year’s competition, and all of them will receive a media package from DECI as well as eligibility for the Entrepreneurial Training Program offered by the Small Business Development Center. “We are excited to be able to offer more to applicants than ever before and, thanks to our sponsors, award more cash since 2005!” said Ray French, business assistance specialist with DECI.

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Thursday, Sep. 27th, 2018

Stories of The State: Watch WEAU's State Theatre Documentary

If you missed your chance to say goodbye to The State Theatre, the 92-year-old entertainment venue that served as a home to vaudeville, movie showings, live music, and community theater, fear not: WEAU has produced a  great mini-documentary taking you through its halls and history.

“The opportunity to create this documentary allowed me to tell a story of the theater, the arts center and the memories of what it all meant.” – Andrew Felix, WEAU TV-13

WEAU aired Stories of the State on Sunday, Sept. 16.  WEAU’s Andrew Felix spearheaded this project, which includes photos, news clips from the venue’s reopening in 1988, video of some of the more recent performances, and interviews with a number of familiar faces within the arts community.

“The opportunity to create this documentary allowed me to tell a story of the theater, the arts center and the memories of what it all meant,” Felix said.  A consistent volunteer for the Eau Claire Children’s Theatre for nine years during his youth, he spent a lot of time in The State, and believed the building and the experiences made there were special.  

“This gave me a chance to ask the questions that I’ve always wanted to know,” Felix said.  “I learned more than I ever expected.”

Felix is thankful for the skills and connections he developed during his involvement with The State Theatre.  “Maybe producing this was my little way of giving back to the community that gave me so much,” he said.

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Wednesday, Sep. 19th, 2018

The Night Market – An Indoor-Outdoor Maker Market and Sale Series

Friday nights Sept. 21 – Oct. 19 • 6pm-9pm • @The Local Store and Volume One Gallery and Courtyard! • 15% OFF STOREWIDE • Every Week: local makers • local food trucks • fire pit • live music • hot cider & snack samples • pre-holiday savings

Volume One and The Local Store are excited to bring back the Night Market – an indoor/outdoor “maker market” and sale series on Friday nights, Sept. 21 – Oct. 19, from 6-9pm. Each night, we'll feature 4–6 different local makers – themselves and their products – in the Volume One Gallery. During the event, we'll also set up a fire pit in our courtyard area, invite local food trucks, host live acoustic music, and serve hot cider and snack samples. Simultaneously, all regular Local Store merchandise is 15% OFF during the Night Market!

See the full schedule of this year's makers, performers, and food trucks!

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Visit Eau Claire Launches New Branding, Logo

Visit Eau Claire, the area’s tourism promotion agency, has unveiled a colorful new logo (above) and brand identity that it says “captures the personality of the city known for its independent spirit, creative culture, penchant for originality, and inspiring natural resources.” The new look is already in use online, and it will be prominently displayed when Visit Eau Claire opens its new visitor center on Oct. 26 in the Pablo Center at the Confluence. Linda John, the group’s executive director, said the branding process was informed by the perceptions of residents, visitors, and people who once lived here and decided to move back. “That evaluation process consistently turned up words and phrases including independent spirit, renaissance, arts and music, a ‘forever young’ mindset especially coming into play with sports, an openness to new and original ideas, caring, collaborative, inclusive, hip neighborhoods with lots happening, and natural resources that inspire creativity,” John said. Visit Eau Claire worked with Odd Brand Strategy, an Eau Claire design firm, to create the new look. To get a peek at the new branding, go to visiteauclaire.com.

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Tuesday, Sep. 18th, 2018

5 Big Numbers: Eau Claire’s New Arts Center

1. 135,000 SQUARE FEET

The total floorspace inside the Pablo Center at the Confluence, which officially opens Sept. 22. That includes two theaters, two art galleries, a dance studio, rehearsal spaces, classrooms, a recording studio, offices, and more, much of it with outstanding views of the confluence of the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers. (The figure is 155,000 square feet if you include space occupied by mechanical items on the roof.)

2. 1,600 SEATS

The combined capacity of the RCU and Jamf theaters. The 400-seat Jamf Theatre, the largest “black box” theater in the Midwest, will be highly flexible: The seats pull out of the wall and performances can be held on a thrust stage or in the round.The Broadway-style 1,200-seat RCU Theatre can seat more people than the old State Theatre yet no audience member will more than 80 feet from the stage.

3. 113 FEET

That’s the distance between the surface of the RCU Theatre stage and the fly tower, allowing a huge amount of space for curtains and set pieces to be hoisted into the air. (There’s also a distance of 83 feet from the stage to the bottom of the rigging grid, which equipment such as lights hang from.) Overall, the stage is 55 feet deep and 100 feet wide, making it three times larger than the stage at the State Theatre.

4. 7,200 SQUARE FEET

The size of the lobby and atrium area – also known as the OakLeaf Physicians Lobby – which will soar upward three stories. Visitors coming from the soon-to-be-completed Haymarket Plaza will enter the arts center via this 2,200 person capacity lobby. Here they will be able to access the box office, the concession area, and view a word cloud containing the names of all 1,100 donors to the project. 

5. $59.89 MILLION

That’s the total price tag for the Pablo Center, including design ($6 million), construction ($45 million), furnishings ($7.9 million), and “pre-opening expenses” like staffing and technology ($900,000). The biggest chunk ($24 million and counting) is coming from donors, with the rest from the state, the City of Eau Claire, Eau Claire County, and new market tax credits.

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