Friday, Oct. 2nd, 2015

Success is Brewing with UWEC’s Very First Entrepreneur Week

Marieke Penterman, owner of Holland’s Family Cheese in Thorp, maker of award-winning Goudas. Penterman is presenting on Thursday, Oct. 8.
Marieke Penterman, owner of Holland’s Family Cheese in Thorp, maker of award-winning Goudas. Penterman is presenting on Thursday, Oct. 8.

In an effort to heat up the Chippewa Valley’s already simmering entrepreneurial culture, the UW-Eau Claire College of Business is about to hold its first-ever Entrepreneur Week Oct. 5-8. Over four days, attendees will be inspired by successful local, national, and even international businesspeople who will speak about their entrepreneurial careers in fields ranging from land development to coffee to cheesemaking. They will also be able to learn about organizations that are helping prospective startups and mingle with other entrepreneurial-minded folks. All the events are open to the public – these aren’t just for students! – but you are encouraged to RSVP. Here’s a rundown on the speakers and events:

Startup Stories: Seattle's Best Coffee and the Search for the Best Beans

Monday, Oct. 5, 5-6:30pm, UWEC Haas Fine Arts Lobby, 121 Water St.

Enjoy Costa Rican coffee while UWEC alum Jim Stewart and his wife, Luz Marina Trujillo, talk about the coffee trade, including how Stewart’s business, Seattle’s Best Coffee, evolved from a single shop into a wholly-owned subsidiary of Starbucks. They’ll discuss starting and running businesses in the United States and Costa Rica, as well as the distinction between fair trade and direct trade coffee.

Startup Stories: From Retail to Real Estate: Lessons From a Lifelong Entrepreneur

Tuesday, Oct. 6, 5-6:30pm, UWEC Davies Center, Ojibwe Ballroom C (330C)

In more than 50 years as an entrepreneur, Eau Claire’s Dick Larson has done almost everything: The founder of Larson Companies began a fabric business in 1963, then moved on to owning shopping centers, apartments, hotels, offices, and more, as well as developing raw land. Find out what he’s learned from his half-century in the business world. (Refreshments and beverages will be served.) 

Ignite Wisconsin's Kick-Off Event: How Do You Eat an Elephant?

Wednesday, Oct. 7, 5-7pm, Acoustic Café, 505 S. Barstow St.

Ignite Wisconsin wants to light entrepreneurial fires by encouraging networking with successful business owners. The group’s kick-off event features a talk by Jack Kaiser of Cigan Properties, who will discuss how he helped turn a former tire factory in the bustling, multi-use Banbury Place, which has more than 150 tenants.

Startup Stories: Finding Your Niche and Going for It

Thursday, Oct. 8, 5-6:30pm, The Volume One Gallery, 205 N. Dewey St.

Two local businesswomen will discuss how they found and filled market niches in a way that put them on the road to success: Mickey Judkins is CEO of Details, a designer fashion store in Eau Claire; Marieke Penterman is owner of Holland’s Family Cheese in Thorp, maker of award-winning Goudas. Come down for samples of Marieke’s cheese, hors d’oeuvres, and beverages. Afterward, you’re invited to shoot the breeze with entrepreneurs beginning at 7:30pm at the Brewing Projekt Taproom, 2000 N. Oxford Ave. 

For full details of all these events, check out the website.

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Tuesday, Sep. 29th, 2015

Nothing Says "Fall" Like a Garth Brooks Corn Maze

Image: Govin's Farm
Image: Govin's Farm

Nothing says "fall" more than a corn maze and nothing says "corn maze" more than … um, Garth Brooks?

Govin’s Farm in Menomonie has made their annual corn maze Garth Brooks-themed this year, complete with his name and guitar playing image – in honor of the "wonderful entertainment" the country superstar has provided the Govin family over the years. You can check out their Facebook announcement, as well as Garth Brooks sharing the maze with his own fans.

The maze officially open right now, so you can try to find your way through Garth’s ... well, Garth!

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Monday, Sep. 28th, 2015

Vote for the Ice Age Trail!

The Ice Age Trail. Image: Michelob (really)
The Ice Age Trail. Image: Michelob (really)

Remember back in May when we were all voting to be The Best Town Ever? Well, that time we lost to Chattanooga – but not this time! Michelob Ultra (for real) and the American Hiking Society are giving away two $25,000 grants to preserve trails across America, and one of the front runners is in our own backyard. And you can help.

Wisconsin’s entry is the Ice Age Trail in Rib Lake and we’re currently sitting at third place. Ahead of us is Continental Divide Trail in Silver City, New Mexico and Florida Scenic Trail in Crawfordville, Florida.

If you’ve never been to the Ice Age Trail I suggest you go (especially as the leaves are turning) because it makes a pretty amazing hike. You can find more info about the trail and some pictures on Michelob’s (really) voting site, and read about the trail’s plans for the grant.

You can cast your vote here for your favorite trail, which is obviously ours, right? 

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Friday, Sep. 25th, 2015

Introducing “Night Market” – An indoor/outdoor maker market and sale series

Fridays in October • 6pm-9pm • at 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 introducing the Night Market – a brand new indoor/outdoor “maker market” and sale series on Friday nights throughout October 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 setup 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!

Each week will see a rotating cast of custom temporary displays from the following local craftspeople, artisans, and artists ... Keep reading for details!

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Thursday, Sep. 24th, 2015

Shiny New ‘Eau Claire-Stream’ Trailer Aims to Take Chippewa Valley Vibe, Creativity on the Road

Eau Claire band Rivers breaks in the Eau Claire-Stream's... fold out stage.
Eau Claire band Rivers breaks in the "Eau Claire-Stream's" fold out stage.

What’s the best way to see America in style? Inside the sleek, retro luxury of a shimmering aluminum Airstream trailer, of course.

What’s the best way to stylishly impress the rest of America so they want to check out the Chippewa Valley? Again, with a classic Airstream trailer – coupled with the talents of Eau Claire area musicians, performers, writers, and other creative folks.

Visit Eau Claire, the local tourism-promotion group, now has just such a tool: Meet the Eau Claire-Stream – get it? – a 27-foot-long 2001 Airstream that’s been newly customized into what Visit Eau Claire calls “an interactive, state-of-the-art mobile marketing center.”

The trailer, unveiled Thursday afternoon, features a nifty fold-out stage, essentially creating a pop-up performance venue complete with sound and video systems. At a launch party in the downtown parking lot of Stella Blues, Eau Claire indie rock trio Rivers serenaded the crowd from atop the stage, which runs nearly the entire length of the trailer. 

The Eau Claire-Stream includes a mobile recording studio.
The Eau Claire-Stream includes a mobile recording studio.

“We believe a presence like this for Eau Claire will really set us apart,” said Linda John, executive director of Visit Eau Claire. Unlike the Fun Patrol – which Eau Clairians have become accustomed to seeing generating enthusiasm at countless local events in the past few years – the Eau Claire-Steam is intended to tour the Midwest and entice visitors with the help of local talent.

“It’s able to go on the road and share the Eau Claire experience with the rest of the world,” John said Thursday. Initially, the Eau Claire-Stream is expected to make six to eight multi-city tours a year within a 300-mile radius, an area that includes most of the Upper Midwest. The trailer will make its promotional debut in Minneapolis on Monday at the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers conference. Again, Rivers will take the stage in the first of what Visit Eau Claire intends to be many forays by Chippewa Valley performers into the wider world.

The comfy end.
The comfy end.

John said the Eau Claire-Stream is the brainchild of a strategy session earlier this year, where such mobile marketing centers were identified as a notable industry trend. And the Eau Claire-Stream isn’t just sleek and cool on the outside: Inside, the trailer has wood flooring and cabinets, as well as shiny aluminum walls. On one end there’s a cozy couch decorated with Eau Claire pillows and a coffee table strewn with local books (items that will look familiar if you’ve been to The Local Store); at the other end, there’s a mini recording studio with a sound system, microphones, and a laptop, equipment that also controls the sound from the stage. In addition, a GoPro video camera broadcasts what’s going on in the studio to monitors outside. And, on the side of the trailer opposite the stage, a window folds down to create a perfect place to serve samples of local food and beverages.

The trailer and customization – the latter done by Colorado-based Timeless Travel Trailers – cost $130,000, with an additional $20,000 invested in the sound system. The cost will be spread over five years, John said, and will be paid for with some of the money that Visit Eau Claire previously devoted to advertising and the Fun Patrol. While that will mean less traditional advertising, John expects the Eau Claire-Stream will attract more of what marketers call “earned media” – stories on TV stations, newspapers, blogs, and the like.

And while the Eau Claire-Stream will spend most of its time on the road, John says you can expect to see it in town for a few major local events a year – so keep your eyes open and your ears peeled.

The big reveal.
The big reveal.

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Target Troll/Chippewa Valley Native Mike Melgaard Strikes Again!

Former local Mike Melgaard, shown here cuddling a puppy. Image:
Former local Mike Melgaard, shown here cuddling a puppy. Image:

Hey, remember Altoona High School graduate Mike Melgaard? He's mostly known as the "Target Troll," because last month he posed as a Target customer service representative to troll people leaving hateful comments and boycott threats on Target's Facebook page – in response to the company's decision to remove gender labeling from its toy and bedding aisles. 'Twas hilarious and nefarious. 

The story of Melgaard's trolling blew up, as a multitude of sites – such as Mashable, Buzzfeed, Today, Time, and Paste – posted screenshots of the conversations.

Well, Melgaard (who lives in Arizona) pulled the same bit this week – to great effect – on Doritos' Facebook page after the cheesey chip company released their LGBT-pride rainbow-colored chips, a limited time product helping to raise money for the It Gets Better Project. Using the name "Doritos ForHelp," he engaged in ridiculous conversations with unaware, anti-gay commenters miffed (or enraged) by the tortilla chip-based campaign. 

You can see a sampling of those conversations posted here by AdWeek. Notable comments involve Melgaard pointing out that Facebook – the platform these upset chip lovers are using to voice their anti-gay distain – is itself a supporter of gay rights. 

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Wednesday, Sep. 23rd, 2015

Do Locals Leave Eau Claire to Find Love? Indeed They Do.

Recently, the Star Tribune ran an essay from local UW-Eau Claire English professor Katie Vagnino entitled, Lonely in Eau Claire: Why I started commuting to Minneapolis for romance.

The essay details the quest of a local 33-year-old serial monogamist who had hoped to find a soulmate “hiding in the cornfields of bucolic western Wisconsin,” but ... hasn’t.

She has, however, had much better luck in the Twin Cities – that handsome Midwestern siren who’s been sucking young professionals and greasy-haired indie rock bands out of Eau Claire for decades. Using dating apps like Tinder, Vagnino discovered a much wider array of datable men on the other side of the St. Croix with “far fewer Green Bay Packers jerseys.”

She’s careful to point out she’s not anti-Wisconsin, per se. She does enjoy Eau Claire’s apartment rental rates:

Don’t get me wrong, there are things I enjoy about Wisconsin — who wouldn’t like paying $450 for a one-bedroom apartment? But the culture took some getting used to.

She says the local single men responding to her online dating profile generally followed certain patterns. Most had kids. Most had been married. None of this turned her off, and she said the men she’s met are polite, attractive, and intelligent. However, as she points out ...

Sports fandom or even fanaticism was pretty much a given, as was outdoors enthusiasm. Camping, fishing and hunting appeared to be the activities for which most of these men sought companionship. Given my proclivity for urban creature comforts and fear of firearms, I figured it was time to test the wisdom of Paula Abdul and see if opposites really did attract.

She didn’t say if any of the men she’s dated appreciate Paula Abdul references from 1988. I’m betting not many. (I’d also wager against the effectiveness of quoting MC Skat Kat whilst wooing local thirty-somethings.)

As far as the sports and hunting stuff – fair enough. You’ll definitely get more of that around here than in places like New York or Boston – the writer’s ol’ stompin’ grounds.

Obviously, Vagnino has found herself un-attracted to her locally based “opposites.” She was looking forward to meeting men “less neurotic and less metrosexual” than what she was used to on the East Coast. And while this is apparently what she’s found, she’s also discovered very little common ground.

She also claims, “most of these guys had never lived outside of Wisconsin and couldn’t understand why anyone would want to.”

A certain amount of defensiveness...

A certain amount of defensiveness (that I’d classify as “a lot”) bubbles up in reaction to Vagnino’s essay. I’m not alone – it’s certainly the popular sentiment I’ve seen in local Facebook threads discussing her commentary, as well as in comments on the Star Tribune’s website. But really, I know she’s not trying to speak for everyone. She’s talking about her own likes and dislikes, and you can’t fault her for that. I’d rather not listen to local dudes discussing fantasy football for hours on end, either. (That’s a torture one sees lumbering across both gender and relationship boundaries.)

So, I wouldn’t take it too personally, men of Chippewa Valley. She’s just not that into you.

I will say this, however. Having grown up in Eau Claire, and having attended school at the very same University by which Vagnino is employed, the “football lovin’ cornfield dweller who loves to shoot guns” is not the stereotypical man I’ve encountered. There are many of these guys, and they are often great fellas, but I can’t imagine they represent an overwhelming majority of the local dating pool. I think plenty of local men own cats, listen to NPR, and like watching BBC shows on Netflix.

That said, I’m straight, married, and not trying to find such a man, so I have no idea where they hang out en masse. Vagnino has far more experience here. I may very well be wrong. 

At the end of the day I just really want my neighbors to be happy in both love and life, so I want to believe this area is home to the kind of guy Vagnino wouldn’t mind serial monog-ing. Perhaps local guys searching for ladies into “Russian literature, sushi, Etta James, and pinot noir,” as Vagnino is, just don’t do a lot of online dating? I don’t know.

We spend a lot of time talking about local culture, local development, and the local art/music/writing scenes, but the area’s dating and relationship scene is a pretty important part of the Chippewa Valley Puzzle. Pointing out our low diversity in the dating pool is not necessarily an insult, but it’s absolutely not something we’d paint on the “Welcome to Eau Claire” sign.

Ultimately, Vagnino is not alone in this, and she brings up some pretty valid observations worthy of our discussion. So please ... discuss.

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Take a Look: Water Street Bridge Demolition

Eau Claire photographer Tina Ecker was out and about this week when she snapped some shots of this demolition crew in their nutty-looking space suits protective gear, cutting apart the old Water Street bridge to make way for its replacement. 

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Eaux Claires Ranked Amongst Top 5 Summer Music Festivals

July’s inaugural Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival was not only a special thing for locals, but it seems to have struck a resounding chord beyond our fair Valley. One year in, and the good people over at Consequence of Sound just ranked the Justin Vernon-curated fest one of the top five music festivals in North America for 2015, beating out the likes of Pitchfork, Bonaroo, and Austin City Limits. Coachella was their top choice. Of Eaux Claires, they say ...

It’s hard to know what to expect from a brand new music festival, but when the curators happen to be two of the biggest names in indie rock—Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner—chances are it’s going to be an experience. Those who ventured to Eau Claire, Wisconsin this past July found a festival off the beaten path in both the phrase’s literal and figurative meaning. Located away from the city proper, Eaux Claires thrived along the banks of Chippewa River, which provided a unique space for creativity in all forms. As was reiterated by almost every act on the lineup, the festival was for the music — it wasn’t a scene. Sufjan Stevens boasted that he never plays festivals, namely because he “is agoraphobic and terrified of contracting lyme disease or an STD or whatever.” But more to the point he doesn’t play them because the appreciation wasn’t there. The consensus was that Eaux Claires was a special place for musicians and their fans, for art to breathe and be enjoyed. –Amanda Roscoe Mayo

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Eau Claire Opens New Trail Connection

The High Bridge (Image: City of Eau Claire)
The High Bridge (Image: City of Eau Claire)

Rejoice local, urban bikers and hikers – the struggle of getting from Folsom Street to the High Bridge is over. Last week the trail connecting these two areas opened for travel.

This new trail section connects to the trail starting just north of Folsom Street and extends a paved vehicle free path down to the recently opened High Bridge. This connection makes for a simple trip from the west side of Eau Claire to Phoenix Park and downtown.

With this new addition, Eau Claire now has over 30 miles of recreational trails and 4 miles of mountain biking trails within the city limits. These trails cover much of the city and make for a safer – and more enjoyable! – traveling experience for those wishing to bike, walk, run, or skate throughout town. 

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