Just a few years ago, downtown Janesville’s main drag might have been an unlikely fit for Adorn, the newest retail shop to open on South Main Street.
Margie Siggelkow, who owns the women’s and men’s boutique that opened last week at 39 S. Main St., never figured she would move back to Janesville after she graduated from Milton High School and left for college in Minnesota in 2007.
“I told myself when I was graduating high school, ‘Like, no way, that’s not going to happen,’” she said. “‘I’m not coming back.’”
While she was away, Siggelkow spent time in Thailand with the civil service agency AmeriCorps, lived in Georgia for a spell and then launched a fair trade evening market on the east side of Minneapolis she said drew thousands of customers each week.
She came home last year to visit family and had a conversation with relatives about downtown Janesville’s golden era in the 1950s and ’60s. She decided to take a spin downtown and realized what she saw today looked different from how it was when she moved away a dozen years ago.
“I always hear from my grandma, my dad, about how downtown Janesville used to be this amazing place,” Siggelkow said. “I came home and went downtown. I saw we have coffee shops now, boutiques and stuff. Nice restaurants.
“I went down the block to the Bodacious places, the Block 42 shops on North Main,” she added. “I thought, ‘Where am I? This is downtown Janesville now? Holy cow!’”
Siggelkow later learned a shop space was coming open at the corner of South Main and Court streets. The location was next to a few other kitschy and trendy shops she liked the looks of, and she it helped that the quarter-block of shops on South Main were all owned by the same person. In addition, the space in question had already been renovated by a former coin and jewelry appraisal business.
Then, of course there was the fact Siggelkow already had those existing relationships with vendors and suppliers of handmade products from her fair trade experience in the Twin Cities. It all helped bring her plan into focus.
Now, Siggelkow is in the space, which has been retooled and re-decorated. Inside, Adorn offers trendy oddities ranging from men’s wallets made from reclaimed bicycle inner tubes to women’s fashion, jewelry, wood and ceramic dining ware and décor. Succulent plants with a potting station are set up in the storefront’s window.
The items Siggelkow’s store carries are considered “fair trade” items, which means they are essentially handmade by independent artisans who are part of a retail network designed to fetch an equitable price for their wares. Some of the artisans, Siggelkow said, live in Janesville.
Siggelkow said it was during a visit home earlier this year that she got a sudden feeling Janesville’s downtown business district was starting to turn a corner. She said it was evident not only because there were some newer restaurants that reminded her of neighborhood in the Twin Cities but because merchants on Main Street shared an attitude of optimism she wasn’t expecting.
“I went around to other shop owners and told them I was thinking about starting a boutique. This was in July,” Siggelkow said. “At that point, I felt like I wasn’t going to actually do it. Until then, it was just kind of like this little idea.”
When Siggelkow initially shared her idea for a new boutique with a merchant at another shop on South Main Street, the other merchant responded with just two words: “Do it.”
“There was this good energy. I was kind of anticipating some people to be like, ‘Don’t do it. Business is not as good here as it looks,’” Siggelkow said. “But that’s not what they said. They said I should do it. I should join them in what’s going on down here.”
Siggelkow has a partner tenant—a new salon, Luxe—in a space in the back of Adorn.
After recently ringing up a jewelry sale for a shopper who had driven to Janesville from Oconomowoc, Siggelkow opened a bag of hot takeout food she had just had delivered from a nearby Thai fusion restaurant also located on South Main.
She smelled the aromatic ingredients of the Asian food, smiled and folded the bag shut.
“This would not have been how I pictured it a few years ago,” Siggelkow said. “Thai fusion delivered to the counter in my own shop in downtown Janesville? This is not what I expected to come home and find. I’m going with it.”