Sturgeon Bay’s west side has undergone tremendous change and redevelopment in recent years, creating growth that has some business owners struggling to figure out how the area ties in to the already established business pockets on Jefferson Street and Third Avenue. And for some, it’s about being recognized as part of the entire Door County peninsula.
Though the city has been actively targeting the tourism market for over a decade, Donna Domencich said it’s still subject to an image, or at least geography, problem. The owner of Native Affairs, a Native American art and gift store on Green Bay Road, wants to be part of the county’s larger community, but sometimes when she tells callers she’s located in Sturgeon Bay, they get confused.
“But I thought you were in Door County,” she said they ask her. “Some still think Door County doesn’t start till you get past Sturgeon Bay.”
Domencich is now president of the West Side Association and said she wrestles with the push to become one city versus the urge for the west side to create an identity of its own.
“We’re all Sturgeon Bay,” she said, “but we’re also unique over here with diverse businesses and services. The only thing we don’t have on this side is a grocery store.”
She said the group has a good relationship with the Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center (SBVC) and hopes they can help increase notoriety of businesses throughout the rejuvenated west side.
“The west side isn’t just Madison Avenue,” said Domencich. “We’re growing all the way out to Stage Road and sometimes people forget about us.”
The association organized a poker run this summer and would like to do similar small events in the future, but Domencich said its purpose isn’t necessarily to be a promotional group akin to the SBVC or the Fish Creek Civic Association.
“We’re all about networking,” she said. “We want the business owners to get to know each other and be aware of the other businesses and work together.”
Domencich moved to the area with her husband Jim six years ago from the Milwaukee area, where she worked for the Department of Labor. She said the Door County community has a unique opportunity to learn from the expertise and experience of business owners who’ve come to the county after long careers in other fields.
“These people have a lot of great knowledge,” she said. “But it’s not always used. Part of what the West Side Association is about is getting business owners to share that knowledge.”
Donna and Jim said the association can fill a void for those opening a new business.
“For new business owners it’s a great tool,” Jim said. “[It’s great to have] someone to call about signage or all the little questions that come up that maybe you don’t think about when you go into business.”
“We’ve had a lot of growth in the group recently,” Donna Domencich said. “But it takes a lot of people being involved to make it work.”
For information on the West Side Association or links to any of its member businesses, visit http://www.doorcountywestside.com or call 920.746.8400.