Three Sisters closing for good
WDBA president: Downtown on an upswing after rough winter

By Sarah Pryor - Freeman Staff

June 13, 2014

Three Sisters Uniquities will close July 5. 
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA - After six years of selling items that humor, delight and empower women, Three Sisters Uniquities is closing its doors for good on July 5.

“It’s something that needs to be done and it’s a good thing,” owner Dani Sutliff said Thursday. “I had a dream, I put a foundation under it and I lived the dream for six years.”

Sutliff moved her business from Clinton Street to 439 W. Main St. last fall and said that customers loved the new space with parking right out front, but a variety of factors contributed to her closing.

“Quite honestly, since the disbanding of the (Business Improvement District), business has steadily decreased. It’s to the point that there were days that not one customer would come in,” Sutliff said. “And of course the weather, road construction and the changing landscape of retail all contributed as well.”

Waukesha’s BID, the oldest in the state, was disbanded last year at the request of property owners who took issue with the organization steering away from infrastructure and staff and toward becoming a grantor to fund organizations that put on events and otherwise improve downtown.

“Something that not a lot of people realize is that the BID provided resources for business owners. I myself went in and worked on business, marketing and promotion plans,” Sutliff said. “They really were a resource for business, and they did promoting outside the area as well as business recruitment and retention.”

Sutliff said recruitment and retention are important because successful businesses bring customers through the doors of their neighbor businesses.

“In the past year and a half, there’s been a steady stream of businesses closing and no one coming in to take their place,” Sutliff said.

Reilly: Businesses closing ‘a problem for downtown’

Mayor Shawn Reilly, himself a former BID Board president, said he’s concerned whenever any business closes its doors.

“It’s a problem for downtown because the goal is to have all the storefronts full,” Reilly said. “I’ve heard from a number of people since I got elected who are concerned about the number of stores who have left, and I’m trying to figure out the solution.”

Norm Bruce, president of the Waukesha Downtown Business Association, said it’s always sad to hear that a business is leaving downtown, but he believes downtown is on an upswing after a long winter.

“I think we made it through a very tough winter and with the road construction on Clinton, I know that affected even our business here,” said Bruce, who owns Martha Merrell’s Books. “When people start seeing road construction, they make a decision to stay away. But I think we are on the right path as far as businesses.”

Bruce said the WDBA works to provide the necessary resources for new businesses coming to downtown, and although the WDBA does try to recruit new businesses, it’s also up to the landowners to get their storefronts filled with viable tenants.

He also said that although the WDBA’s membership has grown to about 80 members, the organization attempts to promote the downtown as a whole - not just member businesses.

“Look at the radio advertising we did last fall for Silver Bells (holiday events). We didn’t say ‘come to these WDBA members,’ we said ‘come to downtown Waukesha,’” Bruce said. “When businesses come in and get involved, they are successful, but when they pull away and want to be alone, then they’re alone.”

Sutliff said she’s excited for the future, which she hopes will include getting back to the things she loved to do before opening her shop.

“There are some new dreams to follow and I have some ideas of what I want to do next, like more teaching of workshops and retreats,” she said.

The store will be closed from June 17-19 to prepare for its closing sale June 20 to July 5, Sutliff said.