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Store closings ranks No. 5 local WIZM story of year



The number of big retail stores in the La Crosse area has changed significantly during the past year.

In 2018, both Sears and Herbergers closed at Valley View Mall — Herbergers had just moved into the store space vacated by Macy’s early in 2017.

Toys “R” Us, with a store near the mall, went out of business. And, the locally-owned Wettsteins appliance store in downtown La Crosse closed this summer, after decades in business on 3rd Street.

The many closings ranked as WIZM’s fifth-ranked local story for 2018.

“Obviously that’s a loss for our community,” Vicki Markussen, from the La Crosse Chamber of Commerce, said in June. “Wettstein’s has been a great business neighbor for the downtown area and, honestly, an anchor for the downtown area.”

Owner Dan Wettstein announced the news in late June that his family’s store, which opened in 1951, would close before year’s end.

Wettstein received a surprise honor a few weeks later with a lifetime achievement honor from the local tavern league.

“I’m very humbled by it,” Wettstein said. “I never ever expected it. I truly came here to thank them for the business relationships, for the friendships and for all that they do individually for the community as business owners.”

There are some silver linings for Wettstein’s. Its lighting division was bought by Gerhard’s. Several former Wettstein’s employees now work at the new Karl’s store near Highway 16. And, the Wettstein’s building on 3rd is being converted into clinic space for Gundersen Health System.

The year 2018 also ends with hope for new life in a store that closed over a year ago — the K-Mart on State Road.

The owners of the Village Shopping Center say they plan to acquire the vacant K-Mart.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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