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Flurry of business development

City officials hope projects are more of a catalyst than a fluke

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January 27, 2023

TWO RIVERS – The business landscape in Two Rivers has seen some significant changes as of late.

“We think they will be well-received and add to the beauty and the functionality of our downtown,” Two Rivers Community Development Director Elizabeth Runge said of the many positive endeavors going on right now.

Those behind the uptick in development are couples, Gina and Barry Krahn, and Curt and Jean Andrews, who have owned almost a dozen businesses between them.

The quartet of entrepreneurs – through Wine Not, LLC – said they hope their latest undertakings will help energize downtown Two Rivers.

Gina said the buildings came first, even before the idea of what to do with them did.

“We purchased the buildings without knowing exactly what would go into them,” she said.

Gina said they did that for two main reasons.

“The real estate was priced right, and we wanted to make a difference in our community,” she said. “We knew with all our combined backgrounds, we would be able to put our heads together and come up with business plans that made sense for each building.”

However, in order to purchase the buildings, they needed to have an LLC in place. 

“We gathered a lot over wine, and even considered opening a wine bar at one point, so the name seemed fitting,” Gina said.
Hence the birth of Wine Not, LLC.

Cool City Brewing Company
The first project to come to fruition is Cool City Brewing Company (CCB) – a restaurant, taproom and coffee shop all rolled into one – located on Park Street across the street from City Hall. 

The 14,000-square-foot former Wells Fargo bank building stood empty for three years until Krahns and Andrews bought it at auction in February 2021.

In addition to the restaurant, taproom and coffee shop areas, Cool City also has a space for private parties.

Cool City Brewing Company opened its doors at the end of last year on Park Street across from Two Rivers City Hall. Submitted Photo

“What’s unique about that is the (the party space) is in the former (bank) vault,” Runge said. 

She said other personalized touches include former safe deposit boxes being used as the foundation of a bench near the entrance, local photography on display throughout the building and facets of the tables and decor made by Two Rivers High School students.

Built in the late 1960s, the building originally housed the Two Rivers Savings Bank.

Gina said she and her partners invested $2 million into remodeling the building because even though the building itself was in fantastic condition, it wasn’t in restaurant condition.

“Brewing requires lots of infrastructure to hold the heavy tanks, new water lines, more restrooms, etc.,” she said.

Gina said they also installed a large commercial kitchen, which was not part of the former bank.  

The Cool City Brewing Co. menu offers a variety of unique items, including shareable flights of Wisconsin favorites — cheese curds, sliders, hotdogs and wings, as well as a few non-traditional options, including blueberry bourbon balsamic cheese curds and Korean-style hot dogs studded with Cheetos.

The taproom carries 20 craft beers, hard cider, nonalcoholic beer and seltzers.

It also offers the members-only Mug Club – which includes a locally made 24-ounce collectible beer mug that is cleaned and kept safe in the dedicated locker in the CCB taproom.

Cool City Brewing Company’s menu includes a shareable mac and cheese flight. Submitted Photo

More details on membership can be found on CCB’s website.

Gina said CCB also includes freshly brewed coffee in its craft brew bar, a selection of grab-and-go breakfast pastries from local bakeries, free Wi-Fi, comfortable lounge seating and a seven-day-a-week drive-thru.

Building on a trend
Wine Not is also responsible for the development of two other businesses set to open sometime this summer.

This project includes the remodel of the 1,663-square-foot former Uni-Mart gas station and convenience mart at 2023 Washington St.

Runge said the former Uni-Mart made an unsightly picture on one of Two Rivers’ most visible intersections, Washington and 21st streets.

“The city is pleased to see it (being) redeveloped because it was a blight,” she said.

The former Uni-Mart gas station and convenience mart at 2023 Washington St. will soon house Buckets Gelato and Briars & Brambles gifts and decor shop. Submitted Rendering

Runge said the city put out an RFP for the property, and Wine Not came through with a proposal and designs.

“They are going to be using a lot of the outdoor space for eating outside and beautifying the actual outdoors with landscaping and improving the exterior building, which has been an eyesore for quite some time,” Runge said.

When complete, Gina said the building will be home to two new businesses – Buckets Gelato and Briars & Brambles gifts and decor shop.

She said Wine Not recruited Briars & Brambles owner Shannon Crocker to expand her shop to Two Rivers because the Crivitz location is a favorite of hers.

“We pass Briars & Brambles every time we go (to our cottage on Left Foot Lake near Crivitz),” Krahn said. “I have loved her store since the day it opened.”

Buckets will offer flights of gelato and outdoor patio dining.

“You can see something like this in Menasha, where they have made cute coffee shops out of former gas stations,” she said. “It’s something like that, with that vibe, so it will be a beautified space.”

Gina said the plan is to also feature Buckets Gelato at CCB’s menu.

Another deed
Wine Not wasn’t quite done yet.

A month after signing the dotted line on 2023 Washington St., Gina said Wine Not found itself at another real estate closing, this time across the street at 2106 Washington St., a 400-square-foot former mini-mart.

Gina said the plan for that space is to be the base for an equipment rental service – “street-legal golf carts, kayaks and even some winter rentals.”
‘Catalyst’ projects
Though Runge didn’t have many details to release, she did say a few entities around town are working on similar business models.

Not far from Cool City Brewing Co., off West Park Street, is Central Park, where another project is underway – called Central Park West 365, a year-round recreation area.

In addition to brewing beer, Cool City Brewing Company also has a coffee brew bar that offers specialty-brewed coffee. Submitted Photo

Runge said it’s the stage for the summer concert series with the Two Rivers Community Band, Jazz in the Park and the City-to-City Leprechaun Hunt, among other things. 

“It is being renovated and redesigned to be the heartbeat of activity all year round,” she said.

Among the upgrades are a splash pad, new pavilion with restrooms, relocation of the stage to take better advantage of green space and an ice skating loop.

Runge said she hopes the flurry of activity downtown is more of a catalyst than a fluke.

“It’s a good thing they are all happening together because they can feed off of each other,” she said. “We hope this will continue that domino effect for more and more investment.”

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