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Small Business Saturday offers a local take on holiday shopping

Black Friday brings bargains, but Small Business Saturday holds its own when it comes to deals, coupled with the personal touch and positive impact of buying local.

Being celebrated nationwide, Small Business Saturday, founded in 2010 by American Express, is a holiday season opportunity to help local shops, restaurants and establishments stay profitable and prosperous in light of the growing popularity of online shopping. About 67 cents of every dollar spent at a small business stays local, and the perks extend to personalized service, one-of-a-kind offerings and a reduced environmental footprint.

Pearl Street Pop Up in La Crosse provides venue for small businesses

mtighe / Mike Tighe/La Crosse Tribune 

No, you're not seeing double. Jen Barney of Stoddard, left, is one of eight business owners represented at the Pearl Street Pop Up group in downtown La Crosse. That's also Barney in the poster, which proclaimed her Food Network's Holiday Baking Champion last season.

Downtown Mainstreet Inc. says shopping local is an investment in the community, creating jobs, adding character and vibrancy to the city, supporting the county tax base, and strengthening the local economy.

Many stores in La Crosse will have signs in their windows noting their participation in Small Business Saturday, with many downtown shops open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and offering specials and refreshments. DMI does not have a roster of participating locations this year, but the Pearl St. Pop Up Shop, which includes Good for You Apothecary and Kitchypoo, and Grounded Specialty Coffee are among those celebrating Small Business Saturday.

According to American Express, about 91 percent of consumers “believe it is more important than ever to support small businesses this holiday season” and 83 percent of consumers plan to do a portion of their holiday shopping at or through a small, independently owned establishment.

The newly opened La Crosse Distilling Co. will celebrate its first Small Business on Saturday, hoping to attract customers with extended hours and all-day drink specials. The Distillery will open early at 11 a.m., with a live radio broadcast of holiday music by Classic Hits 94.7 from 2 to 4 p.m. Tasting room manager Josh Robbins encourages shoppers to stop in for $5 Old Fashioneds, Bloody Marys and High Rye Hot Chocolate, and gift boxes of handcrafted vodka and gin will be available for purchase.

“We want to welcome in a lot of new people and people from the outside areas like West Salem and Holmen who don’t usually get downtown,” Robbins said. “We want them to come and see what we’re about as the first distillery open in La Crosse.”

'Frugality fatigue' may fuel increased holiday spending

Retail analysts predict holiday spending this year could surpass the $1 trillion mark for the first time.

What’s behind the forecast increase in sales? One expert says it may be a result of “frugality fatigue.”

“Consumers (have) suffered from what I call ‘frugality fatigue’ for many years because they were always given information about the state of economy that sounded pessimistic, so their ability and willingness psychologically to spend money was not the same as it is currently,” said University of Minnesota professor Akshay Rao, who holds the General Mills chair in marketing at the Carlson School of Management.

Rao said it’s a welcome shift retailers have noticed. High consumer confidence and low unemployment are also key ingredients for a successful holiday shopping season.

Another factor working in retailers’ favor this year: An earlier Thanksgiving Day adds a couple of shopping days into the mix between Black Friday and Christmas. Rao said that can lead to millions more in sales.

“Normally, Thanksgiving is a couple days later, which in the grand scheme of things might not seem like very much,” he said. “But when you think about the fact that this is a 30-day period, a couple of days here or there is 10 percent more time.”

But Rao said retailers aren’t going to sit back and wait for sales. They’re actively working to find customers online.

According to the Harris Poll’s 2018 Consumer Holiday Shopping Report, nearly half of consumers will have already completed most of their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving and the traditional heavy shopping days of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

One possible reason for that is targeted marketing. Rao said companies that advertise online and on social media already have information about the shoppers viewing their ads.

“If I am a smart e-tailer, I have data about you that will tell me whether you buy on impulse or whether you are a careful shopper who looks for something, comes back, looks for it again, comes back, comes a third or fourth time (and) when you get a good deal, you buy,” he said.

There still are many shoppers who still enjoy the in-store experience. The holiday shopping report said consumers are planning to split their dollars evenly between in-store and online purchases.

Rao said brick-and-mortar stores have the additional challenge of making consumers believe they should opt for an in-person experience, by creating some doubt in their minds about bargains they find online.

When it comes to online purchases, Rao said, some consumers may think, “Yeah, I’m getting a better deal, but at the end of the day is my television going to work? Is my refrigerator going to do what it’s supposed to do? Can I actually install it the way it’s supposed to be installed?”

Rao said the retail industry is expecting a 25 percent increase in sales, with surveys indicating many consumers expect to spend more than $800 on gifts this holiday shopping season.

DNR investigating illegal shooting of elk in Monroe, Jackson counties

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Law Enforcement is investigating two illegal elk shootings in Monroe and Jackson counties during the gun deer season.

An adult bull elk was shot and killed after being misidentified by a man who was hunting on the gun-deer opener Saturday near Warrens. He reported the incident himself after realizing he misidentified the elk for a deer.

The elk was seized in accordance with Wisconsin law, and all the meat will be salvaged and donated to the Jackson County Food Pantry.

The second elk, an adult cow, was shot Monday in the Jackson County Forest. The DNR is looking for information to help identify a suspect. Anyone with information regarding the case is encouraged to call a confidential tip line at 1-800-847-9367.

For many years, hunter safety classes in Wisconsin have stressed the importance of being sure of your target and what lies beyond.

Conservation Warden Lt. Robin Barnhardt said: “Hunters need to make sure they are always following the four rules of firearm safety. This ensures the safety of other people, but it is also necessary to avoid the accidental shooting of non-target animals. In addition, hunters that are within or near the Black River and Clam Elk ranges need to be aware that they may encounter an elk.”

Hunters can find a map of the two established elk ranges in Wisconsin by using keyword search on the DNR website. Elk can occasionally be found outside of the designated elk ranges, authorities say, so it is important hunters in areas adjacent to the elk ranges also be on the lookout for elk and properly identify their target.

Top shots: Readers share photos from the 2018 deer season in the La Crosse area
Top shots: Readers share photos from the 2018 deer season in the La Crosse area

Sandy Brekke: Treat outside factors that affect health to achieve wellness

The problems that flooding inflicted on residents of Coon Valley and other Vernon County towns in August go far beyond ruined homes and businesses, as health problems continue long after waters recede.


Those health difficulties include poor water quality, mold, mildew and stress, Sandy Brekke told about 150 people during her presentation on health equity Wednesday at English Lutheran Church in La Crosse.

During his welcome, English Lutheran Pastor Mark Solyst said, “Equity in health care is right down the center of what we do. In a rich country, health care ought to be a right, not a privilege.”

Brekke cited the American Medical Association’s assertion that “climate change is the biggest health problem” facing society and noted effects such as “Coon Valley was all flooded, and California is burning.”

Like many disasters, such occurrences often affect the people least likely to have insurance and least able to rebuild their homes and lives, said Brekke, a senior population health consultant at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse and director of the St. Clare Health Mission for the uninsured and underinsured in La Crosse.

Coon Valley “wasn’t a one-off,” she said. “As polar ice caps melt, they are finding bacteria never seen before.”

Solving such domino-effect health concerns is a daunting task that goes beyond health care institutions, also needing action among businesses, government and education, Brekke said.

For example, building infrastructure requires attention to providing healthy options, such as bike lanes, walking paths and determining whether residents have access to food or are being confined to food deserts, she said.

“We all benefit when everybody is healthy and can achieve,” Brekke said during the program, one of a series of monthly Community Conversations that the La Crosse Interfaith Leaders’ Coalition sponsors.

“La Crosse is doing great things, and is ahead of the curve” in many respects, she said, while other areas are flailing.

Health equity goes beyond health care, and “health is not just absence of illness,” she said.

Brekke cited the World Health Organization’s definition of health as a state of physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

“For me, when we talk about whether health care is a right or a privilege, it is a right,” she said. “For us to think anything else goes against our humanity.”

When it comes to discussing quality of life and longevity, she said, “I would argue that quality of life is more important.”

Achieving health equity means removing barriers to good health, such as poverty, lack of insurance, inaccessibility to care, inability to find jobs and affordable housing, and other factors, she said, also noting that 25 million people in the United States have no access to health insurance.

It requires taking wider view of factors that detract from the quest, she said.

“I would say that, in La Crosse, we have a race issue, and we have to confront it head-on,” Brekke said. “We have to be aware of what’s going on in neighborhoods.”

Asked for solutions, she said, “We spend a lot of money downstream” on problems that already are entrenched.

Brekke, one of the driving forces behind the formation of the La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness, said the lion’s share of grant funding goes to programs for homeless people instead of preventing homeless situations in the first place.

“We would save a whole bunch of money if we kept people in their homes,” Brekke said.

She agreed that people also must shoulder responsibility for their actions, but that requires collective thinking and efforts to ease stressors that erode responsibility.

Smoking, for example, she said, is common among impoverished clients of the St. Clare Health Mission — many of whom have jobs but don’t make enough to escape poverty.

“Even some of the volunteers say, ‘If they can afford cigarettes, they should be able to afford health care,” Brekke observed. “But poverty lowers coping skills, and tobacco companies target lower-income people.”

The Affordable Care Act “is being eroded — that’s a fact,” she said, noting that the numbers of people seeking care at St. Clare dropped by one-third after Obamacare was enacted.

A review of the mission’s activities recently revealed that, as she feared and expected, the number of people seeking free care are rising again.

“We are hearing more about universal health care,” she said, adding that even some people on the right are becoming more open to that option.

When Brekke, a nurse, and her late husband, Eric Brekke, lived in England during his hospital residency, she said she became a fan of the universal care there.

“No matter what anybody thinks politically, it is the only way,” Brekke said.

“It doesn’t mean it’s free for everybody,” but a broad social system and support network prevents illness, she said.

A woman of healthy stock but short stature, who was a gymnast at Central High School in La Crosse and also ran track and cross-country, Brekke said she was puzzled when the English hospital’s protocol deemed hers as a risky birth after their son, Andrew, was born.

“They have way more emphasis on social services,” she said, and the risky label meant “we didn’t have a social network. It was so totally different.”

So the British health care system provided a social worker for two weeks who visited daily, showed her how to navigate the waters of being a first-time mom and helped the Brekkes cultivate a social network, she said.

“I hope in my lifetime, there is universal health care” in the United States, Brekke said.