FOND DU LAC – A year of ups and downs is wrapping up, but for Fond du Lac’s business side, much of the news this year has been positive.
Rising grocery prices, labor shortages and supply chain struggles have affected consumers in Wisconsin and beyond all year, but Fond du Lac businesses and organizations doubled down on shopping local.
Many businesses, small and large, opened all across Fond du Lac, bringing new jobs, activities and services to the community. More are in progress, including more coffee shops and not one, but two new small hospitals.
Here are the top 10 most-read business stories from the area in 2022.
J.M. Smucker Co.’s Ripon plant announced closing date
News of J.M. Smucker Co. shuttering Ripon’s plant reached employees’ ears in late 2021, but in February, the company announced the plant will close at the end of this year.
The plant is closing “to further optimize operations” and production will be consolidated at the company’s plant in Orrville, Ohio. The news affected 93 employees losing their jobs this year.
Korneli’s on the Avenue opens in former Spectrum Roller Rink
Korneli’s on the Avenue, 605 Fond du Lac Ave., opened early this year inside the former Spectrum Roller Rink after owner Jeff Korneli and his team renovated the space to include private event rooms, an arcade, a bar and a resurfaced roller skating rink.
Korneli bought the rink when it became available in 2021, envisioning a venue for family entertainment close to home, so children wouldn’t have to leave Fond du Lac to have fun. Though his original plan was to make the business a banquet hall, the community’s enthusiasm for the venture inspired him to incorporate skating back into the business.
Hobby Lobby joined Big Lots in former Shopko space
Hobby Lobby opened in May, completing the trifecta of businesses planned in and around the former Shopko, 618 W. Johnson St.
Big Lots previously opened next door at the end of 2021, and Taco Johns opened in the outlot in March.
Corta Development and NETSREIT Corp. split the 102,000-square-foot big box store for the two retailers, aided by a $150,000 city investment, funded as a forgivable loan at 2% interest, with 20% forgiven each year over a five-year period.
Tucker’s closes one location, but Caribou Coffees are on the way
Tucker’s Hamburgers closed its Johnson Street location in April amidst a change of ownership: Steve Blagoue and his wife passed the business to their son Joe, who now runs the remaining location, 927 S. Main St., as a fourth generation owner.
None of the staff from the Johnson Street location were laid off when it closed, and almost every employee voluntarily transferred to the Main Street location.
While the Main Street location occupies the building as a tenant, both buildings are now under the ownership of Coffee Holdings LLC, which will add a Caribou Coffee location in one half of the Johnson Street building and one in the outlot of the Main Street location.
As of December, both locations are under construction.
Aurora Medical Center starts construction on new hospital
Construction started this summer on a 70,000-square-foot expansion of Aurora Health Center, 210 Wisconsin American Drive, into a hospital, renamed to Aurora Medical Center – Fond du Lac in partnership with Oshkosh’s Aurora Medical Center.
The facility will offer inpatient, outpatient, surgical and emergency services, with an anticipated opening date of 2024.
For a particularly local touch, the center entrance will feature stonework inspired by “the Ledge” — the portion of the Niagara Escarpment that runs through Fond du Lac — aiming to encourage positive imagery for the patients.
Fond du Lac makes progress on empty big box stores
Though the Home Depot building has sat vacant for 14 years, Fond du Lac has made strides with its other empty big box stores over the years, including the recent Shopko project.
Harbor Freight Tools opened in October in the former Best Buy, which was vacant since 2015, and Froedtert Health will build a small hospital on the former Younkers property, which was vacant since 2018.
The hospital is part of a joint venture that will also bring a ThedaCare facility to Oshkosh. Both are expected to open in 2024.
Scooter’s Coffee builds Fond du Lac location, with an Oshkosh one on the way
Nebraska-based chain Scooter’s Coffee this year eyed Fond du Lac for a new location, which is now open at 527 W. Johnson St.
The drive-thru coffee shop serves its drinks with a smile — on the employees’ faces and the cups themselves — and carries its mission to help customers “scoot in and scoot out” quickly, according to its website.
Scooter’s Coffee offers a variety of hot, iced and blended coffees, as well as tea and smoothies. Food options include breakfast sandwiches and burritos, as well as baked sweets. Some popular items exclusive to Scooter’s are the Caramelicious coffee and the Vertigo smoothie, which is any flavor fruit smoothie with Red Bull.
Fond du Lac is the latest stop for the chain, but locations have been popping up quickly across Wisconsin, especially the northeast portion of the state this past year. One of the next locations will be 2101 W. Ninth St. in Oshkosh.
La Paloma quinceanera services opens physical location
Mayte Pena started La Paloma 20 years ago out of her North Fond du Lac home, but as of January, the business has a permanent space at 344 S. Military Road.
Pena helps Hispanic families across the Fox Valley organize quinceanera celebrations — the rite of passage on a girl’s 15th birthday to mark her journey from girlhood to womanhood — from invitations to photos to dresses.
In 2018, she started La Paloma magazine, showcasing a quinceanera celebration each month and listing event services like DJs and mariachi bands, limos and hair salons. All issues also include the business’s motto: “Todo lo que necesitas para hacer de tu fiesta un gran evento,” which translates to “Everything that you need to make your party a huge success.”
Beans & Bites in North Fond du Lac joins area café lineup
Beans & Bites, 340 Prospect Ave. in North Fond du Lac, opened this March under former Fond du Lac High School teacher Danielle Joslin and her husband Eric.
The café offers fair trade organic coffee and tea, as well as food made with local ingredients — all with an eco-friendly message. The shop’s packaging and straws are compostable, and reusable cups and straws are available for purchase.
Bakery items, pizza and sandwiches are also specialties for the cafe, and what’s not made in-house is mainly locally sourced, such as sandwich bread from Town & Country Bakery and pizza cheese from Grande Cheese.
I-41 access played major role in Fond du Lac business growth
Much of what Fond du Lac is known for business-wise sits along Interstate 41, but was that by design?
Business reporters along I-41 from Green Bay to Fond du Lac traced the highway’s impact on the area as it grew from a two-lane road to a main artery of the state.
For Fond du Lac, some businesses, like Mercury Marine, already existed before the highway became a main thoroughfare, while others moved to be near the action when the highway started expanding, like Schreiner’s Restaurant did in the 1950s.
Now, the frontage roads and major exits of Fond du Lac hold strong with local businesses, major chains and even corporate headquarters.
Contact Daphne Lemke at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @daphlemke.