Wisconsin Department of Commerce Newsletter
November 2003
Korger Family Bets on Downtown Chippewa Falls

While many cities struggle to retain existing businesses, Chippewa Falls is a shining example of commitment to a revitalized urban center from both the business community and local officials. With a new $1.6 million in-fill project in the heart of its downtown, various public and private entities worked together to turn one familyís dream into a reality.

When the three-story Cobban Block building burned down 12 years ago on the highly visible corner of Bridge and Central Streets, the city eventually took ownership of the property. In subsequent years, the Chippewa Falls Main Street Association made filling the space with an appropriate business one of its top priorities. Finally, the association found the perfect fit Ė right next door.

In 1935, Lucille and Joe Korger opened a decorating store next to the Cobban Block building. When the couple retired in the early 1990ís, their four children, Carol Korger Hayes and her brothers Gary, Tom, and Bill, took over the thriving business. Hayes noticed that demand was growing not only for the companyís interior design services, but also for furniture, particularly after the closing several years ago of a popular local furniture store. Hayes and her siblings decided to go into the furniture business.

However, there was scarcely enough room for designers to work in the current cramped location, let alone for a full line of furniture. Korgerís would have to expand, but where?

Hayes never considered leaving downtown for the wide-open spaces of highway commercial districts, particularly since the wide open space right next door would be ideal for her purposes.

"I feel like this is my home," said Hayes. "Iíve been working down here all my life. Iíve never thought of going anywhere else."

Jim Schuh, executive director of Chippewa Falls Main Street, thinks it is wonderful news.

"The wrong project would have put us down the wrong road, " said Schuh, "Not only is Korgerís the right kind of project, but the most important thing is that the building fit in well with the existing buildings."

Wisconsin Main Street Small Business Specialist J.D. Milburn worked with the Korger family for nearly two years to bring the project to fruition. Korgerís is constructed of brick, of an appropriate design and scale to fit the historic neighborhood. As a bonus, the columns from the cityís old Carnegie Library will be incorporated into the new building faÁade. Groundbreaking for a new 17,000-sq.-ft. Korgerís Decorating and Furniture store took place this past summer.

"Business is on the upswing," Hayes said. "Everybody thinks business is horrible, but I want people to see that we are willing to take a chance. Business is going up slowly, but it is going up."

"The Korger family expansion shows confidence in Downtown Chippewa Falls," said Commerce Secretary Cory L. Nettles. "We will be promoting this project to other Wisconsin communities as a great example of quality in-fill construction."

Completion on the project is expected in early 2004. While the Korger family has not yet determined what they will do with their old building, they have promised that it will remain standing, perhaps giving someone else with an entrepreneurial spirit the perfect location for their business in downtown Chippewa Falls.

For more information on services available through the Wisconsin Main Street Program, contact Don Barnum, Commerce, at 608/266-7531 or dbarnum@commerce.state.wi.us.

--Barbro McGinn

The newsletter is issued electronically every other month.

Please send comments or questions to Barbro McGinn, editor.

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