There’s been a surge in retail stores and restaurants opening or relocating in Black River Falls, especially downtown.

“I’m not 100 percent sure what the reason is,” said Amanda Gunn, executive director of the Black River Area Chamber of Commerce. “But I think they found a lot of different opportunities for things that we didn’t quite have yet in the area.”

One of the most unique new businesses is First Fruits Common Market, which Michelle and Brandon Harvieux opened June 1 at 25 S. First St. in downtown Black River Falls.

“We call it a bulk, local and specialty foods store, for lack of a better term,” Michelle Harvieux said last week. It sells bulk foods such as baking items, spices, candy and nuts; local foods such as dairy, meats, breads, cheeses, kombucha and maple syrup; and specialty foods such as coffee (from both JBC Coffee Roasters in Madison and Abidance Ovens LLC in Black River Falls) and olive oil. “We also offer tea under our label and Rishi Tea from Milwaukee,” Harvieux said.

The new store also makes and sells its own fudge, nut butters, specialty popcorn, frosted nuts and freshly brewed coffee, as well as wrap sandwiches that are ready to go. It also sells natural health and beauty products as well as food-making products. And it sells Black River Falls and First Fruits souvenirs such as T-shirts, hats and coffee cups.

“The business was really born out of a sequence of opportunities that arose unexpectedly,” Harvieux said. “My parents, Ed and Pat Davis, purchased the building with the intention to use it for Davis Furniture Co., a business they own. After purchasing the building, we kicked around the idea of turning it into a bulk foods store. At the same time, several auctions for grocery equipment came up and sped up the time frame for making a decision on what to do with the building.”

After lots of praying, Harvieux said, they settled on the idea of a bulk, local and specialty foods store. She said it offers a unique and eclectic mix of items that had not been available locally.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and closed Sunday.

For more information, call 715-284-5000 or visit the store’s Facebook page.

Lauren and Alan Wright plan to open The Wright Place bar and restaurant by Sept. 1 at 44 Main St. in downtown Black River Falls.

Lauren previously worked at the last two restaurants at that building — Donna K’s Bar and Family Diner, which closed in March; and Traveler’s Tales, which closed in 2015.

The Wrights are extensively remodeling the two-story brick building, which they bought in July. “I’ve always loved this building,” Lauren said. “It’s got a lot of history (it was built in 1912) and I’ve always wanted to run my own restaurant.”

The Wright Place will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. “We want to have a waffle bar on weekends,” Lauren said. The lunch menu will include such things as burgers and wrap sandwiches. And the dinner menu will have fare such as seafood and steaks, as well as ribs, pork and brisket smoked on the restaurant’s new smoker.

The Wrights also will access to the building’s second floor, which hasn’t been used for several years. It will have a game room and a banquet hall that’s expected to seat at least 100 people. The second floor will open sometime in the near future, Lauren said, after it undergoes a major renovation.

Also in Black River Falls, Danielle Stiehl recently opened Gathering Grounds at 437 N. Water St., where the Molly’s Rude Awakening coffeehouse closed two years ago.

“It’s a coffeehouse, a place for lunch and a gift shop,” Stiehl said of her business, which opened May 25. It serves coffee, tea, smoothies, blended creams, Italian sodas, baked goods, soups, salads and sandwiches. And the shop has a large assortment of unique gifts, such as candles, lotions, soaps, journals, greeting cards, wall signs, dip and sauce mixes, caramels and handbags.

So far, the most popular lunch sandwiches have been chicken bacon ranch, and avocado chicken. Gathering Grounds also has other lunch sandwiches, as well as breakfast sandwiches.

“It’s been going well,” Stiehl said. “The community has been very supportive.” Stiehl said her parents bought the former Molly’s Rude Awakening building, and she leases it from them. Stiehl plans to hold a grand opening celebration – perhaps in September – after repainting the building’s brightly-colored exterior.

Gathering Grounds is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

For more information, call 715-284-2800 or visit https://gatheringgrounds.business.site or Gathering Grounds’ Facebook page.

After returning to the community where she was born and raised, Amelia Hoffman has opened Millie J’s boutique in the former Mary J’s boutique storefront at 34 Main St. in downtown Black River Falls.

Hoffman said she had a soft opening in March with tuxedo rentals, and had a grand opening celebration in May.

She bought Mary Jelinek’s women’s apparel and tuxedo rental business in January when Jelinek retired, and renamed it. Although Hoffman is a Black River Falls native, she had lived in Madison for nine years before returning and opening her boutique. She decided to call it Millie J’s because Millie is her mother’s nickname for her.

Besides tuxedo rentals, Hoffman sells women’s apparel and accessories such as jewelry, shoes and handbags. “None of the lines I carry are sold in department stores or big-box stores,” she said. “All of the lines I have are exclusive to boutiques like mine.”

Millie J’s hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and closed Sunday and Monday. For more information, call 715-284-2034 or visit the Millie J’s Facebook page.

Dave Hatch and Janinne Casey opened Karma New&Used in April in the former Memory Lane Antiques location at 224 Main St. in downtown Black River Falls.

Hatch, who is a Holmen native, said he and Casey opened Karma there in April after moving to Black River Falls from Rochester, Minn., where they had operated Karma Consignments for 11 years.

At the new Black River Falls location, they buy and sell antiques and collectibles, as well as gold and silver. “I have over 4,600 one-eighteenth scale diecast cars,” Hatch said of one type of collectible that the store has plenty of. It also sells some new merchandise such as jewelry, and has both new and used beds and other furniture.

“With Black River Falls and Hixton, this is a really strong area for antiques and collectibles,” Hatch said of the reason for buying the building and moving to Black River Falls. “That certainly was a factor.”

For now, everything is on the building’s first floor. But Hatch said he and Casey plan to expand the store into the basement in about a month. “That will double our space,” he said.

Karma’s hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed Sunday. For more information, call 715-670-0727 or 507-261-4528 or visit the store’s Facebook page.

Because he sold the building that now houses Karma, Memory Lane Antiques owner John R. McDonald has moved his antiques and collectibles store to 22 S. First St., across from First Fruits Common Market.

McDonald, who has been selling antiques for more than 10 years, said he reopened his store at its new location in March. He also said he has been happy to see the recent openings of new businesses in downtown Black River Falls, as it helps draw shoppers to the area.

For more information, call Memory Lane Antiques at 715-284-5650.

Kyle and Beth Kirby opened Riverside Nutrition on June 30 at 18 Main St. in downtown Black River Falls.

It’s a healthy nutrition and wellness club that serves healthy meal shakes, energy teas, soothing aloe shots and a full line of supplements, Kyle said last week. “We (also) run a Body Transformation Challenge that includes six weeks of live nutrition classes,” he said.

Hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. most Saturdays. For more information, call 763-331-5988 or visit the club’s Facebook page.

Also in Black River Falls, as we’ve previously reported, PriceLand Hemp opened in April at 118 Main St..

Meanwhile, Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican restaurant that opened in 2011, plans to reopen soon in its new location, the former Waarvik Drugs building at 109 Main St. in downtown Black River Falls.

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