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Wettstein's to close in August after 67 years in business in La Crosse

Wettstein's to close in August after 67 years in business in La Crosse

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Wettstein's to close in August after 67 years in business in La Crosse

Wettstein's, located at 215 N. Third St., announced Thursday it will close later this summer.

Wettstein’s will be shuttering its downtown La Crosse retail and service business in late summer after 67 years of operation.

Owner Dan Wettstein announced the furniture, appliance and lighting retailer will close this August, or when all inventory has been sold. The business was struggling in the advent of online shopping, Dan Wettstein said.

Industrial Automation and Engineering, owned by Mike Wettstein, and Wettstein Brothers Electric, owned by Andy Wettstein, will remain in business.

Gerhard’s Kitchen & Bath Store will acquire Wettstein’s lighting division to offer decorative lighting products at Gerhard’s current kitchen and bath store on Cameron Avenue.

“This is not an easy decision,” Dan Wettstein said in a press release Thursday. “Our business has been a part of the tri-state area for a long time. We’ve invested so much to support downtown business, its revitalization and our community (as) well as our involvement with many nonprofit organizations and countless benefits. The time has come, however, to close our doors.”

Wettstein’s, at 215 N. Third St., opened in 1951 in the Denton Street home of founders Howard and Marie Wettstein; it later relocated to locations on South Avenue and the Village Shopping Center before moving downtown in 1962. Dan Wettstein bought the family business, which employs 35 full- and part-time workers, in 2005.

“Wettstein’s legacy is hallmarked as a family atmosphere where hard work, service and dedication to be the best are the central keys to their success. This is why we have been consistently voted No. 1 in this industry in our area,” Dan Wettstein said. “Being a family-owned and operated local business, we always put family first. Our employees are like family. Many of them have been here for decades. They have been very loyal to our business, and their outstanding customer service is a big part of what has made us successful all these years. I am, and will continue to be, grateful for their investment in Wettstein’s. I will do everything I possibly can to find them employment.”

Vicki Markussen, executive director of La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce, called Wettstein’s the epitome of a local business, where customers are treated as family.

“They never compromised on what they knew they could do better than any online competitor: provide exceptional customer service,” Markussen said. “They leave with that outstanding reputation intact.”

“Wettstein’s has been an institution for many decades. Their impact to the downtown and the region will be greatly missed,” La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat said. “It is a significant loss to the community.”

Robin Moses, director of Downtown Mainstreet Inc., was saddened by the news, citing the Wettstein family’s commitment to customer service, charitable causes, community involvement and integrity. Moses stressed the importance of supporting local businesses, many who are facing similar challenges as they compete with web-based retailers.

“This is what it means if you’re not mindful as an individual ... to spend your money in your own community,” Moses said. “These businesses need your support. I hope if anything people walk away from bad news like this and realize they do make a difference in keeping these stores open.”

The Wettstein’s property will be sold, with more information to be released at a later date. Moses says Dan Wettstein has spoken with a potential buyer whose business would be a “good fit for downtown.”

Dan Wettstein said his current focus is supporting his employees during the transition.

“We sincerely appreciate all of our customers’ loyal business support,” Dan Wettstein said. “We will continue our tradition of taking care of our customers up until the last day of closing. It is time for me to spend more time with my family while continuing to give back to our community.”

From Tribune files: A look at life in La Crosse from 1900-1987

These photos are filled with many familiar faces and places from our area's past.

Emily Pyrek can be reached at emily.pyrek@lee.net.

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