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La Crosse business owners meet with Mayor Reynolds and US Senate candidate, Wisconsin LT. Gov. Barnes

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Downtown businesses in La Crosse and other places have many challenges to meet, in order to thrive.

Several local business owners met with political leaders at Pearl Street Books on Wednesday for a roundtable discussion.

Those leaders included Mayor Mitch Reynolds, Assemblyman Rep. Steve Doyle and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who’s running for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin.

Also in town Wed., joining La Crosse Talk PM, was another Senate candidate, Milwaukee Bucks senior vice president, Alex Lasry.

At the business roundtable, Meringue Bakery owner Jen Barney, who has gained national fame from winning a Food Network baking challenge three consecutive seasons, says she’s had struggles getting her bakery operating downtown.

“We were scheduled to open up the week that COVID shut everything down,” Barney said, “so it was just a really unique entry story into downtown La Crosse, and, we’re truckin’.”

The new owners of Jules Coffee House downtown — siblings Aidan and Adeline Fisher — had doubts about taking over a business that has been successful for years. Aidan, however, found that Jules has a loyal customer base.

“The first day, ” Aidan said, “we had a line halfway to the door for three hours, and we’re like, ‘All right, I guess these people, this community, this town loves this spot, and it almost felt immediately like, OK, we can do this.'”

Reynolds said the pandemic and other health concerns have been harmful to many small companies.

“It hits our small businesses the hardest,” he said, “because if you lose one person or two people, that might be half your staff, and so you just cannot function in that kind of way.”

Doyle pointed out that the number of childcare providers in the area has fallen sharply in the last few years. Barnes added that affordable child care is something the business owners want to have.

“When there is access to early childhood care, we see better outcomes in the long run in education,” Barnes said. “Not only are parents able to go to work and be able to provide for the family, be able to contribute to the economy. It helps those children also.”

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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