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Small Business Week 2023 Includes EDC Visits

EDC board members and community supporters made stops to Crumbl Cookies (Hudson), JA Counter, an Alera Group Company (New Richmond), SYKL Power Bikes (Baldwin), Barbell Coffee Company (Hudson-River Falls), Bywater Business Solutions (Somerset), Smokey Treats Barbecue Restaurant (Hudson), O’Keefe Millwork (River Falls), and Baldwin LightStream (Baldwin).

EDC President Aaron Sundeen noted, “Small businesses in St. Croix County are the heartbeat of local economies. They pioneer innovation and create opportunities for families and workers in the St. Croix Valley.”

Small businesses are innovative, resilient, and make many contributions to local, regional, and state/national economies. Of interest,

-Nearly half of all private sector workers in our country are employed by small businesses.

-These businesses also account for almost half of our Nation’s gross domestic product.

-They create many of the goods and services Americans rely on to sustain their everyday lives.

-Owning a small business fulfills dreams of a better life, a chance to build a family legacy, and becomes a source of community enrichment.

County Board Chair Bob Long joined EDC President Sundeen with a joint proclamation on behalf of small businesses in the county at the April board of supervisors meeting.

See photo captions below.

Top left: Crumbl Cookies

EDC staff started the week of May 1st off on the right foot with an early stop at Crumbl Cookies in Hudson. The order was used at a mid-morning appointment. The three partners of the Hudson location are Connie and Rory Young and Karen Lea (Frenchy) French. Connie and Rory relocated from Colorado and Frenchy splits time between Alaska and Florida. In the spirit of Small Business Week, the partners opened their second store in Eau Claire on May 5th.

A third store is scheduled for Onalaska later this year.

Top right: JA Counter, an Alera Group Company

JA Counter was founded in 1976 by James Counter as an insurance agency specializing in individual life, health and disability and employee benefit planning. Counter’s daughter Linda Skoglund joined the firm in 1990 and became a shareholder in 1997. She acquired all shares by 2001. The company joined Cambridge Investment Research, Inc. in 2016 and became a member of the Benefit Advisors Network (BAN) in 2007. Out of the network, 23 independent firms discussed providing the best of both worlds – national scope combined with local service. The plan was executed and an aggregator was formed, uniting the 23 firms into a larger entity known as the Alera Group.

2nd row left: Barbell Coffee Company

Barbell Coffee was founded in 2020 as a family-run coffee roasting business in Hudson, Wisconsin with office space at the Business Innovation Center in River Falls. It is owned and operated by Cassie and Ender Gocmen. Barbell is a specialty coffee roaster, meaning only high-quality, single origin beans are sourced and roasted in small batches. The company tagline is Don’t Drink Weak Coffee; Drink Barbell Coffee.

2nd row right: SYKL Power Bikes

SYKL creates affordable and modern electric bikes for the youngest and oldest of hearts, including off-road ramblers and asphalt amblers, offering a better, long-range, fat-tire electric bike for adults, with numerous built-in accessories. Model options include the compact (folding) series, metro series, and Xplorer series, designed for rugged terrain and climbing hills, but delivering long-range capacities.

3rd row left: Bywater Business Solutions

Owned and operated by Chris Ferguson, Bywater Business Solutions is new to Somerset, Wisconsin. The business sources printed products, promotional items and apparel for companies, allowing the companies to operate efficiently and promote their organization. Bywater creates “company stores” to manage the procurement of sales and marketing material and other items regularly purchased. Chris brings a wealth of knowledge, education, and international business experience from his native Canada to the St. Croix Valley.

3rd row right: Smokey Treats

Smokey Treats transitioned from River Falls to Hudson earlier this year. Owner Matt Beranek says Smokey Treats is not a traditional barbecue joint. Meat is hand-trimmed with great care and seasoned with only the best local ingredients from Croix Valley Foods (Hudson, Wisc.). The meat is slow-smoked for 12-14 hours before being hand-pulled or sliced.

Bottom row left: O’Keefe Millwork

O’Keefe Millwork is a leading manufacturer of architectural woodworking and custom cabinetry products, serving the Minnesota-Twin Cities commercial construction industry. Its roots go back to 1984. O’Keefe works primarily with general contractors and its products are showcased around the U.S. in hospitals, clinics, hotels, assisted living centers, casinos, multi-housing, office buildouts, retailers, and institutional environments.

Bottom row right: Baldwin LightStream

Baldwin LightStream has a long and proud heritage of moving communications forward. In 1900, as telephone service was first entering homes across America, it led the revolution in the Baldwin and Woodville, Wisconsin area as Baldwin Telephone Exchange. In the 1980’s as cable television expanded, services were also expanded as well as its reach into Hammond, as Baldwin Telecom, Inc. Now operating as Baldwin LightStream, the company provides internet, video, phone, and security solutions to residential customers and custom solutions and business phone systems to commercial users.