Despite closing businesses, downtown De Pere still booming

Fourteen new businesses have opened downtown in the last year
Fourteen new businesses have opened downtown in the last year

DE PERE - It's a new chapter for Victoria Alberts, co-owner of A's Restaurant & Music Café in downtown De Pere.

"Semi retiring for at least six months maybe less and maybe I'll do someting different," said Alberts.

After 23 years she's ready to move on and sold the building.

Eight additional downtown businesses have also closed within the last year including Stowe Drug Store. And yet no one is panicking.

"It is very obvious that De Pere is booming," said Allyson Watson.

Watson is the executive director of Definitely De Pere, the downtown economic development program.

She says despite the closings, 14 new businesses have opened in the last year creating 55 jobs.

"We have seen close to $13-million in property investments, all private not public at all…private investments in the downtown and close to $2 million commercial improvements within existing building," Watson said.

A new Walgreen's is under construction downtown. It's set to open in July. Although it's not like the locally-owned businesses in the downtown area, Definitely De Pere says it thinks the store will bring in more business.

"And while you're here, maybe you'll stop and eat dinner somewhere maybe you'll stop at one of our shops," Watson said.

One of those shops is Kimberlee Gast's Salon and Spa. She's been in business for the past two years.

"Things have been going great. I couldn't ask for a better location and a better staff and more support from the community. The community has really supported the business," said Gast, owner of K Será Salon & Spa.

Just a few doors down is Union Hotel & Restaurant. It's been around for more than 100 years. The owners saw a significant downturn in business about 25 years ago.

"At one point there was as much as 35 to 40 percent of the storefronts were vacant," said McKim Boyd, co-owner of Union Hotel and Restaurant.

Boyd says his business is doing well and so is the rest of the downtown area.

"I think downtown is vibrant both during the day time and during the evening," Boyd said.

There are more than 200 businesses in the area and A's Restaurant & Music Café won't be empty for long.

Alberts says a new business will fill the space within the next couple of months.