New beginning for businesses in Mt. Horeb

MT. HOREB (WKOW) — One Dane County community is proving it’s stronger than the pandemic.

In the past few weeks, business has been growing for a handful of new shops on Mt. Horeb’s Main Street.

“That angst of feeling, not knowing when it’s gonna end and not feeling an end in sight, is actually finally starting to release because we’re seeing increases in crowds and increases in people,” said Robin Pharo, owner of Grumpy Troll Brewpub.

Pharo and her team decided, despite the pandemic, it was time to open a new concept in the Troll Capital of the World: Sugar Troll candy store.

“Honestly, I think it’s actually the best time to start a new businesses right now,” Pharo told 27 News. “We’re not super busy so we can ramp up and learn things and tweak how we do business, which is great, instead of getting crushed day one. But also that sense of enthusiasm that we’re seeing from consumers, we think will translate into really successful product launches and business launches this whole year.”

A few doors down, an at-home business has a new home on Main Street. Janelle Holmstrom is re-launching a soap shop and antique store that closed down when its owners retired.

“It was a little bit scary,” she said. “We couldn’t decide if we were brave or crazy to be buying a building and a business in a pandemic, but as the summer and the winter progressed, the rent has filled up and the stores are exciting. Main Street is exciting and very vital right now.”

Jangle Natural Living started as Jangle Soapworks, selling soap handmade with goat’s milk from Holmstrom’s home. Now, it’s a brick and mortar storefront focused on natural products next door to a reopened Isaac’s Antiques, which her family also now owns.

“Moving forward, we’re just really excited. It feels like the world is opening up, you know, people are vaccinated, the weather’s beautiful, and we’re such a small town, and we have enough exciting shops that we feel like we’re a tourist destination,” Holmstrom said.

Gemplers owner Carl Atwell says the entrepreneurial spirit of Mt. Horeb made for a perfect place to open a physical version of his online general store headquartered in Janesville.

“It’s so fun to be a part of other businesses that have kind of great ideas that are kind of pushing forward, that know the reality where the pandemic is but kind of have their eyes set on where things could be,” Atwell told 27 News.

The farm and home store has evolved from a tire repair shop that started more than 80 years ago in Monroe. Atwell is looking forward to the foot traffic and mix of customers Mt. Horeb will offer.

“It’s really great and I think it will only get better. I mean hopefully as things evolve here, foot traffic will pick up and more and more people will be coming out, but it’s been, we’re off to a really good start,” he said.

These businesses will be celebrating their recent launches together with a grand opening event this weekend. It also coincides with the return of the village’s streatery program, where businesses can set up outdoor dining spaces for their customers.

That’s just one of the efforts village economic development director Rowan Childs has taken on to support small businesses during the pandemic.

Childs tells 27 News four or five businesses have closed since last spring, but 10 new ones have opened since last summer and more are on the way.

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