Monday, Feb. 20th, 2017

5 Numbers: Eau Claire on the Money

The City of Eau Claire recently published its annual Development Update, which detailed construction in 2016. A few highlights:

1. $159 Million

The total value of building permits issued in the city during 2016. This is the fourth-highest total ever (the record is $197 million in 2009), and a 2.5% increase from 2015.

2. $94.4 Million

The value of commercial projects in the city last year, up from $87.5 million in 2015. Nearly two-thirds of this was for new buildings; the rest was for additions and alterations.

3. $41 Million

The value of the permit for the Confluence performing arts center, by far the largest issued in 2016. No. 2 was a $12.5 million Mayo Clinic Health System project.

4. $46.1 Million

The total value of residential construction in Eau Claire in 2016, a sharp rise from $29.6 million the previous year. Permits were issued for 273 total units, including 75 single-family homes.

5. $276,724

Average value of a new single-family home in Eau Claire, the highest average on record. This average grew from $231,431 in 2015. One single-family home was valued at $1.27 million.


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Thursday, Feb. 16th, 2017

NEW IMAGES: Haymarket Plaza Concept

NEW IMAGES: Haymarket Plaza Concept

check out what's in store for downtown Eau Claire's next public space

Released Tuesday (2-14) during a work session following the Eau Claire City Council’s bi-weekly meeting, we can now check out concept renderings for the Haymarket Plaza which are far more official than anything we’ve seen before. These concepts aren’t just for scale and size, they actually show features based on planning and public input, though we doubt everything is set in stone.

Designs are by Garret Perry of Design Studio Etc. of Madison, Wis. Images via the City of Eau Claire.

Click the image for a closer look.

Features shown include a large fountain, sculptures, multiple small “fire plazas,” access to the water, and plenty of natural seating. And of course, you’ll also see the much-talked-about pedestrian overlook bridge spanning the Eau Claire River, connecting the new plaza to Phoenix Park. 

In case you’ve forgotten, the Haymarket Plaza is a public park area to be located between the new Haymarket Landing building, the forthcoming Confluence Arts Center, and the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers itself – right up to where the land meets the water. 

You can attend an open house event on Thursday (February 23, 4pm) at the RCU building, (200 Riverfront Terrace) to offer feedback on the new concepts.

We’ll have more details soon!


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Monday, Feb. 13th, 2017

V1 and The Local Store to Host 4th Annual Cribbage Championship

Do you have cribbage skills? Do you enjoy testing them out in bracketed-style competitions? The Local Store is gearing up to host the fourth annual Volume One Cribbage Championship, right in the Volume One Gallery at the Volume One headquarters on Saturday, February 18 at 11am. Interested in playing?  Here's what you need to do:

1. Click here to sign up!  We are accepting up to 32 registrations on a first-come first-served basis. Cost: $5

2. Practice. Let's face it, you're a little rusty, and you don't want to be caught missing points.

3. Show up on Saturday, February 18 no later than 11am.

And that's all! All game materials are being provided by the Chippewa Valley Cribbage Club, and the top finishers will receive Local Store prizes.  All participants are guaranteed at least two games and maybe some high-fives.

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Friday, Feb. 10th, 2017

Local Snow Carving Team Takes 4th National Title

The winner of the 2017 U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition in Lake Geneva, Wis. – by Eau Claire-based team The Starvin' Carvists. Photos via Steve Bateman.
The winner of the 2017 U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition in Lake Geneva, Wis. – by Eau Claire-based team The Starvin' Carvists. Photos via Steve Bateman.

The sculpture is amazing. It's a fantastic mix of artistic expression, intricate detail, and advanced technical voodoo. The sculpture's main feature is a life-sized, life-like dancer suspended from an arching, curving, coiling column of ghostly people woven into a massive vine.

And all of it, every square inch of it, is made of snow.

The central figure – that dancer – appears to be barely touching the supporting arch, both arms and a leg pressing lightly against the twisting column. She's floating, the tips of her toes dangle inches above the ground. When you stop to consider the design, and the material, it's almost breathtaking.

"I'm really happy with this piece. It was figurative, expressive, beautiful and dark. It was not a cute crowd pleaser, it really pushed the materials and kept the art of the sport in the forefront." – Starvin' Carvist Steve Bateman

But that's the level craft we've come to expect from The Starvin' Carvists, a snow-sculpting team based in Eau Claire who, with the work described above, have claimed their fourth title at the 2017 U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition on Saturday, Feb. 4.

Held each year in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the competition draws artists from all over the country and beyond. This year saw not one, but two Wiscosnin teams grabbing top honors, with another team from Wisconsin taking second place.

A Labor of Frosty Love

You've probably seen the work of the Starvin' Carvists over recent years next to the skating rink in Eau Claire's Boyd Park. Their sculptures have been a special attraction at the park's Thursday night Winter After Hours series, hosted each year by Volume One and Eau Claire's Parks, Recreation & Forestry department.

But the team steps it up for Nationals. Carvist Steve Bateman (the local artist behind the "Garbage Goose" next to Banbury place, the goldfish on Water Street, and more) says over two months of sketching, modeling, and other prep time went into this year's winning entry. The rest of this year's team was filled out by David Andrews and Kevin Sawicki both of Wauwatosa, Wis.

Longtime teammate and Eau Claire artist Jason Anhorn was unable to attend this year, but was on board for the group's previous victories in 2013, 2014, and 2015, not to mention a first place finish at an international competition back in 2007, when they traveled to Italy and carved against teams from 12 other countries.

Bateman says team captain David Andrews designed this year's entry, taking input from the rest of the team. On the sculpture's nerve-wracking challenges, he says, "There was so much detail and so many fragile areas that we had to work in a certain order on things, and in close quarters on parts without bumping into it."

Looking back at the team's past winners, it's obvious they like to create dynamic pieces, shaping the snow show movement and even tension. Bateman says, "I'm really happy with this piece. It was figurative, expressive, beautiful and dark. It was not a cute crowd pleaser, it really pushed the materials and kept the art of the sport in the forefront."

From the back.
From the back.

Want to See More?

You can learn more, see photos of this year's entries, and even watch a time lapse video of the Starving Carvists sculpting the piece at and the event's Facebook page.

And also! Bateman and Anhorn were recently featured in a cool commercial for blueberries produced by Fatherly. Check it out!

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Wednesday, Feb. 8th, 2017

[UPDATED] Eaux Claires Unleashes 2017 Lineup

UPDATE (2-9-17)

A limited supply of advance two-day general admission and Chippewa passes for Eaux Claires – which come with catered meals and free drinks are on sale right now at Advance regular two-day tickets are $159 while the Chippewa passes go for $325. Once initial passes sell out, prices hike up to $169 and $350, respectively.

And if you plan to camp at the nearby Whispering Pines Campgrounds, camping passes are sold separately for $165 and $300 for oversized vehicles and include a campsite and camp access for 1 attendee for three nights. Campers will also have the option to add additional camp access passes for $35 per attendee.

Above: To many, a ray of sunlight within the deep folds of winter. (Photo: Scott Kunkel)
Above: To many, a ray of sunlight within the deep folds of winter. (Photo: Scott Kunkel)

Today, when unsuspecting Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival presale ticket buyers opened their mailboxes, what should appear but an illustrious zine called Troix packed with abstract wintry images, poetically-stated details about the upcoming fest, and what looks to be the full lineup of artists – which includes Wilco, Chance The Rapper, Paul Simon (performing with yMusic), Feist, John Prine, Danny Brown, Perfume Genius, Sylvan Esso, and tons more artists and collaborators.

Here’s the lineup listed in the Troix zine

The Autumn Defense
Big Red Machine
Bon Iver Presents John Prine and the American Songbook
Chance The Rapper
Collections Of Colonies Of Bees
Danny Brown
Francis and the Lights
Happy Apple
Julieta Venegas
Mountain Man
Mouse On Mars
Music For The Long Emergency
Paul Simon with yMusic
Perfume Genius
S. Carey & Glenn Kotche
Spank Rock
Sylvan Esso
This Is The Kit
Velvet Negroni
Zebulon Pike

That Zine, Though

If you were one of the lucky ones, you’ll notice some familiar imagery within the zine’s pages like photos from within The Joynt and even that infamous house at the corner of Third and Lake that Justin Vernon sang about once. The zine has Michael Perry’s signature words washed all over it and starts with a short letter about this time of year in Wisconsin: “We resent the darkness more than the cold,” it reads. "It is the darkness that makes us long for spring. The cold chills your bones, but the darkness deadens your heart. It is the darkness we are desperate to dispel. So we are making plans for the light."

Year three is packed with big names, big ideas, and big ambition, but as the opening lines of the zine put it, they’re purposefully downsizing a little bit with reconfigured grounds and fewer stages. That means there won’t be any conflicting musical acts, and festival goers can take in everything without missing anything. “We are doing this so that we will all experience more of the festival together.”

The lineup is eclectic as all get out. From the hard-hitting rap force of Danny Brown to the legendary Paul Simon teaming up with neo-classical ensemble yMusic, to the indie splash of Feist, to the soulful hip hop of the one-and-only Chance The Rapper, to folk royalty John Prine performing with the members of Bon Iver, to alt-country great Wilco – there’s a lot to take in. Plus, when you book Wilco at a festival like Eaux Claires, you’re gonna get the many side projects and collaborations of its members, in the form of Tweedy, Cup, The Autumn Defense, Quindar, and even a team up between S. Carey and Wilco’s drummer Glenn Kotchke.

Another cool thing outlined in the zine is this list of "artists in residence” – musicians and collaborators who aren’t specifically on the lineup, but will contribute in ways seen, unseen, and unforeseen. “Ever evolving, the residents will serve as a creative core, one set to bolster the musical performances and interactions of the festival with the flexibility to contribute with whomever, however, and whenever they desire,” the zine reads. This list includes Justin Vernon, Sam Amidon, Phil Cook, Sean Carey, Aaron and Bryce Dessner (of The National), Jenny Lewis, Anaïs Mitchell, Ryan Olson (of GAYNGS and Marijuana Deathsquads), The Staves, and others.

This festival, which is happening on June 16 and 17 this year at the festival grounds outside of Eau Claire, is starting to come together and – like always – there’s plenty to be astonished and excited about. And – like always – we’ll join you there.

“For now, this place is rimed with ice and studded with slush knobs,” Perry writes of the festival grounds. "What sweet antidote it is to envision how we might dance in the grass. There is great power in wanting what we cannot have."

Eaux Claires will announce the lineup formally and in full as well ticket options at noon on Thursday, and we’ll have that covered at, so check back throughout the day.

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Tuesday, Feb. 7th, 2017

A Place for Pride: Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center Reopens

A NEW HOME. After years of fundraising, organizers recently collected enough money to rent an office space for the new Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center.
A NEW HOME. After years of fundraising, organizers recently collected enough money to rent an office space for the new Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center.

Just nine months after being forced to leave their original location at an Eau Claire church due to high renovation costs, the Chippewa Valley LBGTQ+ Community Center had run out of money. They were forced to vacate their Woodland Avenue offices in 2011, marking the beginning of a six-year struggle to find an affordable space.

A lot has changed in the interim. Since December 2013, the group has been spearheaded by President Jason D. Bennett-Hardy, former Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ secretary. Jason’s husband, Dan, took his place as secretary when he became president. Ann Hoeppner is the anchor of the organization, weathering times of calm and tempest as treasurer since 2006.

Along with volunteers and past board members, the Bennett-Hardys and Hoeppner have organized countless fundraisers in efforts to open a new space to house the center.

The Chippewa Valley Pride celebration is the biggest moneymaker for CV LGBTQ+. Every year, they organize a weekend of food, fun, and fellowship for the entire Eau Claire community to enjoy. Last year’s fundraising festivities included the Pride Dinner, the Pride Picnic, and the Christopher Iannone Memorial Ice Cream Social and Boat Ride.

To keep the organization afloat after Pride, CV LGBTQ+ has historically held monthly to biweekly bingo nights at The Plus where each $10 ticket buys bingo cards, tokens, and access to donated prizes and gift cards. They also host an annual volleyball tournament to raise money and awareness for the Chippewa Valley’s LGBT community.

Finally, after years of fundraising, the group recently collected enough money to rent an office space. On Dec. 31, the new Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center opened its doors on the fourth floor of historic Banbury Place.

The weeks since have been a whirlwind of settling in, keeping up with ongoing events, and planning for the future. The board is in the preliminary stages of transforming the group from a virtual organization to a physical one. 

“We’re working on becoming more of a physical resource center where people can come in and look at a book, get pamphlets, and find what they need,” said Jason Bennett-Hardy.

The Bennett-Hardys and Hoeppner hope to offer a support network for the entirety of the local LGBTQ+ community as the center continues to build and expand. The organization is currently in the process of organizing a transgender support group to be housed at the center, added Hoeppner.

Amid dwindling participation in Bingo Night, the group is looking to revamp its fundraising and activity programs. The board is exploring low-cost events such as ice cream nights, movie nights, and game nights to supplement smaller activities like mini-picnics and spontaneous volleyball games.

They also hope to revitalize the Pride Variety Show for next summer’s event.

But in order to widen their support network and create new programs, the board needs bodies. On top of running the center, the Bennett-Hardys and Hoeppner all have full-time jobs. They hope to fill several volunteer and paid positions to fulfill community needs and keep the center open for walk-ins.

How can you help? Donate time or money, interact with the CV LGBTQ+ on Facebook and Twitter, give feedback via email, attend a board meeting, or participate in fundraisers and events such as Pride. Above all else, spread the word. Tell your friends, your family, your neighbors, your great aunt in Augusta, your pet parakeet. Let it echo across the Valley: CV LGBT is here, and they’re ready to help.

Looking to occupy your open hours and give back to the community? Check out the center’s open positions at and shoot them an email.

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Micon to Bring Movie Magic to Wausau

Micon Cinema 7 Eau Claire
Micon Cinema 7 Eau Claire

Micon Cinemas plans to expand beyond the Chippewa Valley by building a 10-screen movie theater in downtown Wausau by next year. The Wausau City Council recently approved Micon’s plans to demolish a former Sears store at the Wausau Center Mall to make way for a new 10-screen multiplex. The agreement between Micon and the City of Wausau includes a $1 million forgivable loan from the city, which is contingent on Micon adding jobs and building a complex worth $6 million, the Wausau Daily Herald reported. Micon, which is owned by Connie and Mike Olson, has an eight-screen theater in Chippewa Falls, a seven-screen theater on Eau Claire’s London Road, and the two-screen Downtown Budget Eau Claire. Connie Olson said Micon had been looking to expand beyond the Chippewa Valley for several years and has been negotiating over the Wausau location for six or nine months. The Wausau theater will feature the kind of amenities that have been added to Micon’s Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire theaters in recent years, such as bigger seats, larger screens, and possibly a restaurant. Connie said the Wausau theater likely won’t open until April or May of 2018, but when it does, it will be the only movie theater in the city of Wausau.

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Monday, Feb. 6th, 2017

Lakeside Comfort Food: Wissota Café offers American classics

LAKESIDE EATS. The newly opened Wissota Café near Chippewa Falls specializes in American comfort food, including (at top, from left to right) a bacon cheeseburger with onion rings, a turkey-spinach wrap with fries, and the popular hot beef sandwich. The café is attached to a BP gas station.
LAKESIDE EATS. The newly opened Wissota Café near Chippewa Falls specializes in American comfort food, including (from left to right) a bacon cheeseburger with onion rings, a turkey-spinach wrap with fries, and the popular hot beef sandwich. The café is attached to a BP gas station.

Whether you’re looking for a new spot to get breakfast with friends or you’re compiling a list of the best sammies in the area, there’s a café on the southern tip of Lake Wissota that you should check out: Wissota Café. 

Even on the coldest of days, Wissota Café is filled with warmth and cheeriness.  The walls are adorned with vintage photos of boaters on Lake Wissota as well as the Lake Wissota Dam, and the tables are clothed in delicate black-and-white tablecloths reminiscent of the lake.  Co-owner Tim Bliek explains, “It’s a huge benefit (being so close to the lake). It offers great visibility and good summer traffic.” 

Wissota Café is a hidden gem attached to the Wissota Express on the south end of Lake Wissota; Tim and Lynn Bliek own the café as well as the BP gas station.  As relatable as they are kind, Tim and Lynn strive to create an atmosphere that is warm and welcoming. “We want to provide a good product with friendly service and a pleasant atmosphere,” Lynn explains. “It’s very important – we want people to feel at home.” 

Wissota Café features a menu designed by Teresa Rosendahl, who is also the manager of the café. “Teresa has 25 years of experience in the restaurant industry,” Tim explains. Nodding in agreement, Lynn adds, “She’s done so much for the café.” 

When you look at the menu, the trio’s dedication to the café shows – the menu offers up a variety of classic American comfort foods such as Eggs Benedict, burgers, and sandwiches.  “The hot beef meal and our ‘2 Farm Fresh Eggs’ are the most popular items on the menu,” Tim says.  In addition, they have a special every day, and they recently began serving all-day breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays due to popular demand. 

Another highlight of the menu are the signature hash browns.  “Our hash browns have spinach, quinoa, and garlic cheese pearls in them,” Lynn explains.  “Most people like them, but we also offer American fries for customers who aren’t sure about it,” she adds with a laugh.

In addition to the café, the freshly cooked breakfast and lunch sandwiches are available in the gas station’s convenience store for those looking to grab and go.  Lynn attributes part of their success to the convenience store: “We have many regular customers, and a lot of them go to both the convenience store and the café,“ she says.  “One of our goals is cross-promotion – we’re open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch,” Tim explains.

As for the future, Tim and Lynn have big plans for the café. “We will be opening a drive-through window for the café in the next few weeks,” Tim said.

Some of the long-term goals the pair has are to offer outside dining in summer, to deliver food to the boat landing, and to open up after hours for small events. 

With that said, give Wissota Café a shot the next time you’re messaging your friends about where you should get breakfast. “We hope to provide good customer service with a smile, and a pleasant and homey atmosphere,” Tim said.

Wissota Café • 17255 County Highway X, Chippewa Falls • (715) 861-5615

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Saturday, Feb. 4th, 2017

Restored for the First Time: Habitat for Humanity poised to open store for recycled building supplies

DOORWAY TO DONATIONS. Volunteers work at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore in St. Louis in 2011. This spring the Chippewa Valley Habitat chapter plans to open a similar store selling new and used building supplies. Image: U.S. Marine Corps
DOORWAY TO DONATIONS. Volunteers work at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore in St. Louis in 2011. This spring the Chippewa Valley Habitat chapter plans to open a similar store selling new and used building supplies. Image: U.S. Marine Corps

Building or remodeling your own house may soon help Chippewa Valley Habitat for Humanity build more homes for local families who need them.

As early as this spring, the Eau Claire-based branch of the global home-building charity plans to open a ReStore, a donor-driven retailer of recycled building materials, says Aaron Czappa, the group’s executive director. Chippewa Valley Habitat for Humanity is in the process of purchasing the former Variety Office Products building, 145 N. Clairemont Ave., near the intersection of Clairemont Avenue and Menomonie Street.

“We’re moving forward extremely quickly. We’re very excited because we’ve been planning this for a number of years.” – Aaron Czappa, Chippewa Valley Habitat for Humanity, on the soon-to-open ReStore

Czappa says the group is aiming to open the ReStore by May 1 – a goal that will require help from many supporters and volunteers. “We’re moving forward extremely quickly,” he says. “We’re very excited because we’ve been planning this for a number of years.”

While there’s never been a ReStore in the Chippewa Valley, they’re been popping up around the country in recent years: There are about 1,500 Habitat chapters nationwide, and as of 2015 there were 860 Habitat ReStores, which had gross revenues of $382 million. (The closest ReStores to the Chippewa Valley are in Rice Lake and Roberts.)

All funds raised by the ReStore will go toward Habitat’s local mission: building homes for families who meet income requirements, have a need for better housing, and are willing to partner via “sweat equity” and mortgage payments. Since it was founded in 1991, Habitat’s Chippewa Valley chapter has built 43 homes within a 30-mile radius of Eau Claire. Most recently, last fall it completed a home in Menomonie for a family with five young boys who had previously been crammed into a two-bedroom apartment.

“We are looking forward to building additional homes and completing an increased number of home repair projects and workshops each year,” Czappa says. “Additionally, we are also excited to be able to use the store to become more visible in the community and spread the mission of Habitat for Humanity.”

The store will also help customers, donors, and the community as a whole in other ways, Czappa adds. Customers will get good used products at reduced prices; donors will save money through tax deductions and reduced trash bills; and the community benefits because less waste will end up in landfills.

The ReStore model, Czappa explains, is similar to that of donor-supplied retailers such as Goodwill and Savers, except the store will sell only construction-related materials, not knickknacks or thrift items. At the ReStore you’ll find furniture and appliances, as well as all manner of building materials, both new and used. Czappa says Habitat’s existing relationships with local builders, plumbers, heating and cooling contractors, and other professionals will help it gather used and surplus items.

Czappa acknowledges that the approximately 8,000-square-foot Variety Office Products building is somewhat smaller than an average ReStore, so expansion or the opening of a second ReStore, potentially in Menomonie, are options if the space gets crowded.

He also acknowledges that the ReStore will in some ways be similar to Hope Gospel Mission’s Building Hope, 2108 Western Ave., which also sells used and new building materials. While there will be some overlap in what is sold, Czappa says competition will be kept to a minimum, in part because of the size of the Chippewa Valley metro area. Furthermore, the Habitat chapter may explore ways to partner with other nonprofits: For example, products donated to the ReStore that aren’t building materials could be passed on to other charities.

While Czappa is looking forward to opening the store, he notes that a lot of work must occur before it happens. As May 1 approaches, Habitat will need many volunteers, both to staff the ReStore and to relocate inventory that has been stockpiled in several storage units. Habitat is also seeking a donated box truck or cargo van to make pick-ups and deliveries. (Until a truck is secured, donations will be accepted via drop-off, although dates and times haven’t been established yet.)

The project has already gotten several big boosts: In particular, Czappa credited U.S. Bank will providing Habitat with a grant and Citizens Bank in Altoona for helping finance the project. With the new building comes new expenses, so Habitat will soon launch a capital campaign to both pay the mortgage and build even more new homes.

Learn more about Chippewa Valley Habitat for Humanity by visiting, where you can register for email updates, or by calling (715) 833-8993. To learn more about Habitat ReStores, visit

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Wednesday, Jan. 25th, 2017

Sweep Away Hunger at Beginners' Curling Tourney

Image: Felix, CC 2.0
Image: Felix, CC 2.0

If you’ve never tried the icy winter sport curling but have always wanted to, you’re in luck – in fact, you could be poised to win a tournament! How many beginners can say that? The Community Table is holding a one-day charity bonspiel called Sweep Away Hunger on Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Eau Claire Curling Club, 5530 Fairview Drive. (Lingo alert: A “bonspiel” is a tournament and “sweeping” is something curlers do with special brooms to keep their rocks moving down the ice.) To make things interesting – and fair – “participants must have essentially no curling experience,” organizers say. The bonspiel can accommodate 16 teams of four players each (although a fifth player is recommended as a substitute). The fee is $500 per team, and proceeds will go the Community Table, which provides free meals to those in need in Eau Claire. Even though the tournament is for newbies, participants are required to attend one of two training sessions to learn the basics of curling. (Basic No. 1: It’s played on ice, which can be pretty slippery.) The sessions are noon to 2pm on Feb. 11 and Feb. 18. To learn more about how you can have fun while helping feed the hungry, call (715) 835-4977 or email

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