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How 17 small businesses opened in Washburn during the pandemic

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WASHBURN, WI -- Opening a business calls for celebration.

Melissa Martinez, director of the Washburn Area Chamber of Commerce, said that's something new owners in Washburn didn't get because of COVID-19.

"The first business was October of 2019, and because of COVID she was not able to celebrate and have a grand opening," Martinez said. "So I said, 'When things get better, we'll do something for you.'"

The Washburn Area Chamber of Commerce held a giant ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday.

Not for one, but for 17 new businesses; all of which opened during the pandemic.

Annalisa Thewis, co-owner of Antler Specialty Goods, a mobile coffee and merchandise shop, said this celebration meant a lot for businesses that opened during quarantine.

"You don't get the big hullabaloo, first opening week with hundreds of people that other times get, so I think this just really gave us all a little bit more of a kick start and feel really official and part of the community," Thewis said.

That community is exactly what drew these new owners to this small Wisconsin city.

Amy Trimbo, the owner of AdventureUs, said Washburn has the ideal conditions for a new endeavor.

"Growing up in Milwaukee I never really thought about owning my own business before, but Washburn made it accessible," Trimbo said. "There's downtown locations that are available. The community is incredibly supportive."

At a time when many were struggling, these new business owners pushed ahead.

Anna Neumann, owner of Beads to Blooms, saw the pandemic as an opportunity.

"I can't believe I'm doing this," Neumann said. "I actually sold my house, moved all the beads out of my house into a retail space into a month of each other."

The small town has big opportunities for those willing to take them.

Amy Zimmerle, along with her three sisters, took over ownership of North Coast Coffee in Washburn in April.

"I grew up in a small town and, I moved to another small town, so I just love seeing small towns grow and just become something that's beautiful," Zimmerle said.

Martinez said they have several more businesses opening in the coming months, and Washburn's growth isn't ending anytime soon.

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Kendall Jarboe

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