We sat down with Maria Caravati of Equinox Botanical Boutique & Brit Windel of DayBreak Church, two downtown Kenosha business owners and board members of The Kenosha Lakeshore Improvment District (B.I.D) to find out what’s going on in downtown Kenosha.
The Kenosha Lakeshore BID was created by the City of Kenosha in 1986 to allow businesses to develop, manage and promote Downtown Kenosha and to establish an assessment method to fund permitted activities. The BID Board meets each month, on the third Tuesday at the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Downtown Kenosha at 8:30am. Meetings are open to the public.
Q. What do you love about being a business owner in Downtown Kenosha?
Maria: Having traveled and lived in Europe, I’ve always been drawn and attracted to the “center of a community,” the business district, the downtown. I love the diversity, the history. And of course in our case, it’s proximity to our beautiful lake.
Brit: We love being at the center of so much traffic and life with amazing businesses around us. We are in the people business and to be Downtown where people come, we couldn’t ask for a better location.
Q. Why did you chose Downtown Kenosha for your business?
Maria: When I was on the Keep Kenosha Beautiful Committee in the mid 1990’s, I wanted to beautify the downtown with hanging flower baskets. I was directed to the manager of the Downtown Business Improvement District (BID). After I explained my desire, intentions and commitment, I thought that I should have my business down here – I had currently been renting space on the third floor of Ambrose Hall at The Kemper Center and was ready for a move after two years. The manager told me about a building that was available for sale. Much work and commitment was needed, but the rest is history 22 years later. I’m also proud to say my flower basket project has expanded and still thrives.
Brit: We wanted to be where we could be present to the needs and encouragement of local business and be a place for people to gather for the good Kenosha. We believe downtown is special. A passage of Scripture from the Bible we hold dear is Jeremiah 29.7 Pursue the well-being of the city I have deported (sent) you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it thrives, you will thrive!” We love getting to be a part of this city growing and thriving and seeing our local business and friends flourishing.
Q. Why did you decide to join the BID board?
Maria: I’ve always been passionate about our Downtown and believe it’s important to contribute actively, not passively, in its growth and progress. Many tourists visit our Downtown, I want to feel proud to call Kenosha my home, and to call Downtown the home of my business. I feel it’s my responsibility to take an active role in making it be the best it can be, so I can truly be and feel proud.
Brit: It was an honor to be nominated and a great honor to except. To get to join a team of business owners tasked with improving aspects of our Downtown is an incredible gift. To have a government who sees the benefit of funding something like this to bring about improvements is an incredible idea.
Q. Where do you see Downtown Kenosha in five years?
Maria: Having my business downtown for 22 years, I’ve seen a lot. It’s been challenging to say the least, and I see that challenges will continue. But as always, I am hopeful. There are great partnerships here with the common goal to help businesses, beautify the area, and improve progressively in our district.
Brit: With a growing and changing face in culture, I hope to see more creativity and cooperation among businesses. I think we have competition along with cooperation for the greater good for a city. I’m hopeful for more restaurants, coffee shops and spaces for people to gather to create and connect.
Q. What are some of the long and short term goals you would like to see get done during your term on the BID board?
Maria: I would like to see more bicycle “racks” to increase the bicycle ridership. This would help with the parking and traffic issue. When riding a bicycle one is much more likely to make an unplanned stop at a business if they see a safe place to lock up their bike. Rather than in a vehicle where parking is not available, they just continue driving.
I would love to see cooperation between the BID, Visit Kenosha and the City of Kenosha to have our city streets festively lit up at Christmas with beautiful lights and decor.
I would like seasonal banners to be hanging from our light poles.
I would also love to see more cooperation, participation and action from all business owners to work collectively at making our Downtown the best it can be.
Brit: I would to love to see more engagement among new business owners and up coming creatives. For Downtown to thrive and grow fresh and new must be a part of the stable and firm foundation that already exists. Thinking creatively with activating space and lighting, creative ways to engage food trucks and the arts and our growing musical population are a must!
Q. What is your favorite Downtown event?
Maria: The first Bloomin’ Days I organized in 2007! It was magical. Ha! But as far as current, I would say Small Business Saturday. I know it’s not just a Downtown event but it’s a wonderful day for all businesses, without an investment other than inventory, staffing and whatever else they choose to do. It’s a wonderful day promoted and marketed specifically for our community to show their love and support small, local brick and mortar businesses.
Brit: The one that hasn’t happened yet – it might sound silly, but I try to be forward thinking enough to ask what haven’t we done yet that needs to be done that will bring more people down here! There are some incredible events and happenings from the farmers markets, to Ccar shows, Taste of Wisconsin, pop ups,you name it, but I believe my favorite event has yet to happen!
Support local by visiting Equinox Botanical Boutique at 5901 6th Avenue A.
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Day Break Church is located at 5631 6th Avenue
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Q&A by Donny Stancato
Photos submitted or by Donny Stancato
Edited by Jason Hedman
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For everything Kenosha see visitkenosha.com
(This article first appeared in the winter 2022 Downtown Kenosha Magazine)