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Three Main Street America Staff members standing in front of a mural in Marion, Iowa.

Marion, Iowa © Tasha Sams

About

We work in collaboration with thousands of local partners and grassroots leaders across the nation who share our commitment to advancing shared prosperity, creating resilient economies, and improving quality of life.

Overview Who We Are How We Work Partner Collaborations Our Supporters Our Team Job Opportunities Contact Us
Two community members in Emporia Kansas pose with a sign saying "I'm a Main Streeter"

Emporia, Kansas © Emporia Main Street

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Made up of small towns, mid-sized communities, and urban commercial districts, the thousands of organizations, individuals, volunteers, and local leaders that make up Main Street America™ represent the broad diversity that makes this country so unique.

Overview Coordinating Programs Main Street Communities Collective Impact Awards & Recognition Community Evaluation Framework Join the Movement
Dionne Baux and MSA partner working in Bronzeville, Chicago.

Chicago, Illinois © Main Street America

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Looking for strategies and tools to support you in your work? Delve into the Main Street Resource Center and explore a wide range of resources including our extensive Knowledge Hub, professional development opportunities, field service offerings, advocacy support, and more!

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People riding e-scooters in Waterloo, Iowa

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May 1, 2018 | Main Street Spotlight | A Memorable Makeover on Main Street | By Allie Jeka, Retailworks |

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                Retailworks’ display artists and WEDC team up to work on the visual merchandising of the cafe’s retail products. Photo credit: Retailworks, Inc.

“Five! Four! Three! Two! One!” City officials chanted as a giant tarp was removed from the facade of Annie’s Fountain City Cafe, a favorite local gathering place and coffee shop. They were anxiously waiting to see the transformation that had occurred over the past two days: an interior and exterior renovation that had cafe owner, Annie Culver, beaming with tears in her eyes.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) partnered with Retailworks, Inc., a commercial interior design, display and branding firm headquartered in Milwaukee, to launch Wisconsin’s Main Street Makeover Contest. WEDC would grant $10,000 to a deserving business from one of Wisconsin’s 33 designated Main Street districts, and we would provide the interior plans, designs, visual merchandising and labor to bring the renovation to fruition. Of the 20 businesses that applied, Annie’s Fountain City Cafe was selected to win the makeover based on factors such as existing business success, community involvement and support, and a clear vision for how to take advantage of the makeover for business achievement moving forward.

We first visited Annie’s Cafe in February 2018, and quickly realized how easy it was to fall in love with Annie and her business. Annie and her staff gave selflessly to the Fond Du Lac community in many ways: they hosted community events, showcased work from a variety of local artists, provided a creative outlet for the community with open mic nights, offered a “Blessing Wall” where patrons could “pay it forward” by purchasing a food or beverage and adding a coupon to the wall for someone else to use, and served as a home-away-from-home for residents. It was clear from the beginning that Annie’s Cafe was deserving of the makeover, and that improving the cafe would in turn benefit the community. At our initial meeting, we talked about all the possibilities for the cafe’s makeover based on Annie’s dreams for the space, but knew that we’d have to pick top priorities as the awarded $10,000 would only cover so much.

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                Retailworks’ Senior Designer, Holley Bakich, touches up paint on the “Blessings Wall.” Photo credit: Retailworks, Inc.

As we finalized the cafe’s design over the next few months, it became clear how significantly the community loved and believed in Annie’s Fountain City Cafe. The Fond Du Lac community raised a whopping $34,000 in additional funding and in-kind donations to help Annie achieve all her goals for the new space.

The growing support for the project was inspiring, and when it came time for Annie’s Cafe to close for the 48-Hour Makeover, the momentum was palpable. The building was full of life as contractors, an electrician, the WEDC team, our design and display teams, members of the Downtown Fond Du Lac Partnership, Annie’s staff, friends and volunteers worked in tandem to make the updated look for Annie’s Cafe a reality. 

The new design we created for the cafe was bold, fresh and clean, but still preserved the integrity and vibe of Annie’s treasured brand. A new layout made room for more customer seating and improved the ease of shopping by allowing all of Annie’s merchandise to be condensed to a designated retail area. We brought more color into the cafe by painting the walls with a vivid, 1950s-inspired color palette. We also improved messaging with cohesive, easily-visible interior signage and menu boards.  

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Annie’s collections and coffee for sale are displayed on both new and refurbished fixtures. Photo credit: Retailworks, Inc.

In addition, donated Slatwall made a significant improvement to the business’ retail experience. Annie’s Cafe sells a variety of locally-sourced merchandise in all shapes and sizes, including art, gifts, accessories, jewelry, greeting cards, and skin care products. Our display team used Slatwall and Slatwall accessories to strategically merchandise the various product lines so they were well-organized and easy to see. Annie’s cherished collections of Pyrex and vintage coffee pots were also on display in the cafe, so our artists grouped and organized them to make a statement.

Other enhancements of the café’s interior included a table of impulse purchases near the checkout counter, a refrigerated display case with more room for the cafe’s famous bakery items, updated lighting, in addition to a stage and seating for open mic performances. 3.jpg

The new and improved exterior at Annie’s Fountain City Cafe includes signage, window displays, and a parklet. Photo credit: Downtown Fond Du Lac Partnership

The cafe received an updated exterior designed by WEDC with fresh paint, awnings, window treatments, and signage that would help it stand out as a fundamental Main Street business. Our display team topped off the new exterior with window displays to help draw customers in. To top it all off, a parklet was added for community use in front of the cafe. According to the San Francisco Great Streets Project, the parklet will help improve Fond Du Lac Main Street as a walkable, public space. 

On April 11, 2018, a grand reveal was held to showcase the anticipated new look of Annie’s Cafe to the community. Speakers included Fond Du Lac City Manager Joe Moore and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch. The event had a tarp drop for the reveal, attracted a large crowd, garnered media attention, and business boomed for Annie’s Cafe on the first day of their grand re-opening.

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                A crowd begins to gather for the grand reveal of the new space. Photo credit: Retailworks, Inc.

While the 48-hour makeover flew by, the effects of the project will be long-lasting. The reinvigorated design of Annie’s Fountain City Cafe and the additional media attention will hopefully attract more return visitors and first-time customers. The improved retail experience combined with space for additional seating should help the café generate more sales. Annie’s goal for the future is to convert the currently-empty second floor of her historic building into an event venue — and we hope that the makeover will help her achieve her dream in no time.

The benefits of the Main Street Makeover don’t end with the cafe. The improvements will also serve people who use the business as a community gathering place, such as local artists and musicians who exhibit their work there. Furthermore, Annie’s redesign may inspire other local businesses to follow in her footsteps, improving Fond Du Lac as a downtown destination. Annie’s parklet, the first on Fond Du Lac’s Main Street, may encourage other merchants to invest in outdoor gathering spaces.

Finally, the success of the Wisconsin Main Street Makeover at Annie’s Fountain City Cafe will allow the project to be duplicated for other Main Street businesses across the state in the future. In partnership with WEDC, we hope that the rewarding transformation at Annie’s Cafe will inspire an increased number of merchants to apply for next year’s makeover. We have witnessed firsthand just how prosperous a business’ revitalization can be when they have the support of their Main Street community.



About the author:

Allie Jeka is the Social Media Strategist and Marketing Project Manager at Retailworks, Inc., an award-winning branding, design and display firm headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Retailworks creates engaging, branded environments and thought-provoking, intentional art/display installations to positively influence the customer experience. Learn more at www.retailworksinc.com, or follow Retailworks on social media: @retailworksinc.