Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ‘Bounceback’ grants help small businesses — like flower shops and martini bars — around the state fill previously empty storefronts

By: Kaylee Staral
November 26, 2021

In the small northwestern Wisconsin city of Washburn, a bright red and yellow building was a familiar part of the main street.

For years, it was the local Dairy Queen, and then it became a Chinese restaurant. And then it sat empty for several years until October 2020, when David Sneed took a risk — in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic — and opened a fancy martini bar.

Sneed’s efforts recently received a modest boost from a Wisconsin Tomorrow Main Street Bounceback grant.

The $50 million program offers $10,000 grants to new or existing businesses moving into vacant space. Announced in April, the program receives funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Since launching, more than 1,000 businesses have tapped into the program, according to Missy Hughes, the chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Flower shops, restaurants and child care centers have been among those receiving funding.