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Antique center could draw visitors to Evansville

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GINA R. HEINE
August 14, 2008
— A planned antique center could be what downtown Evansville needs to attract visitors from outside the city, developers say.

Windmill Antiques and Company, 7 E. Main St., will feature about 23 antique dealers when it opens this fall in the renovated Eager building, said Jean Wyse, who will be one of the vendors and is working with the building's developers to form the company.


"We're hoping that the antique center will bring more specialty shops to the downtown and, of course, more customers from the surrounding counties and beyond," she said.


The company is seeking quality dealers who specialize in all branches of the antique market to fill the west side of the building and mezzanine, she said.


"With our historic nature over here, it's probably a really good fit for downtown," said Jeff Farnsworth, a developer of the Eager building and chamber of commerce board member.


Pieces of the puzzle for downtown development are coming together, Wyse said, citing several examples:


-- Downtown road construction is wrapping up this week after several consecutive summers of inconvenience and closures.


-- Brick pavers finished last fall give a look that officials hope will give the downtown an historic character and attract out-of-towners.


-- Other downtown storefronts are being renovated.


-- The city recently approved an economic development plan.


From her office window on West Main Street, chamber of commerce promotional director Bridgit Larsen said she's seen more downtown traffic and activity. Sales at some businesses such as the Evansville Pharmacy show more people shopping downtown, she said.


"I think the town is going to just blossom," Wyse said.


Wyse had a few antique dealers signed up before beginning to advertise last week. The antique center also will offer to sell antique consignment furniture for people who don't want to rent floor space.


Organizers hope the antique center opening will coincide with the 14 South Artists Tour, which includes Evansville, on Sept. 20-21. The Evansville Community Partnership also is sponsoring the Harvest Windmill Festival, a new event Sept. 20 that will include a farmers market, live music and wine and cheese tasting.


And next year, Windmill Antiques might be part of a tour that includes antique stores in Stoughton and Attica, Wyse said.


"Antiques malls love competition. That's what makes us work," she said.


Wyse sold antiques in Middleton, Cambridge, Madison and then Evansville for more than 15 years.


"(It was a) very lucrative business until the major highway construction," she said, referring to summer street projects in downtown Evansville.


She closed when business dwindled from the construction with hope of reopening after roadwork was done.


With the Eager building now renovated and a historic Baker windmill featured in the center of it, the beauty of the building will be a draw, she said. Wyse said they won't have any trouble getting return customers.


"It's all coming together," she said of the downtown. "We just feel we're on the cusp for something big for Evansville as far as attracting new business."


RECENT OPENINGS

Several Evansville businesses have expanded or relocated within the city, but a few new ones also have opened on Main Street downtown. Here are a few:


Integrated Art Group
Details: 13 W. Main St., (608) 882-1400.
Owner: Margaret LeMay.
Opened: June.
Business type: An art consulting firm and art dealer. LeMay and her staff provide art collections for offices, healthcare organizations and corporations.
Surf4ink.com
Details: 11 W. Main St., (608) 882-5010.
Owner: Randall and Neal Gruber.
Opened: May.
Business type: Selling ink, toner, office supplies, computers and Sprint phones.
Movie Emporium
Details: 18 W. Main St., (608) 882-9992.
Owner: Chandra Cearns.
Opened: July 25.
Business type: Video and game rental, including an exchange program.
ANTIQUE VENDOR

Windmill Antiques and Company, 7 E. Main St., Evansville, is seeking antique dealers. Those interested should contact Jean Wyse at (608) 882-6272 or (608) 201-3980.



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