Storefronts filling up in ‘rebirth’ of State St, official says

Businesses are opening up at a historic shopping district in Madison after 2 years of various challenges, including record-high vacancies.
Published: May. 31, 2022 at 5:15 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Businesses are opening up at a historic shopping district in Madison after 2 years of various challenges, including record-high vacancies.

In May 2020, destruction downtown followed a day of peaceful protests for civil rights. Stores on State St. boarded up as a result, as they also struggled to keep up during the pandemic.

“We’re in this really vibrant regrowth, rebirth period right now,” Tiffany Kenney, director of the Madison Central Business Improvement District (BID), said.

“There’s a lot of new businesses and a lot of shifting businesses in downtown Madison,” she said, pointing to different shops in the 100 block of the street.

Red Square Flowers, for example, recently moved into a larger space across the street. Kenney also confirmed that five empty buildings on the block have also been bought.

In the BID’s 22-year-long history, January 2021 set the record for most storefront vacancies along State St., Kenney said,

More than 50 shops were closed at that time, compared to fewer than 40 this month.

“[It’s] hard to say why they closed,” Kenney explained. “One person retired. Other folks may be closed because there was damage from civil unrest that they weren’t able to recover from. Others may have found it challenging through COVID to get through.”

“I got the nerve to open the store because I felt like it’s bigger than me,” said Joey Turner, who plans to open his store Jewelers on State Street Wednesday.

Turner described what happened in May 2020 as part of his business creation story.

“I feel like it’s up to me as a leader in the Black community to show everyone that this is not just a general corporation area you’re destroying,” he said. “The corporations are really not affected when you destroy State Street Mall. It’s the small guys like me.”

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