No longer just a Corner Store

FROM LEFT, co-op members Lelia Ziebell, Donna Marquart and Sue McConnell encourage folks to stop by Town Square Saturday mornings or to take a stroll through the corner store. Joe Schulz photo

by Joe Schulz

In the early days of Town Square, Board President Fran Hill approached former Green Lake County board member Sue McConnell with the idea of a cooperative that would give local artists a place to exhibit and sell their work in the heart of Green Lake.

McConnell agreed to come on as an administrator and the Corner Store Artist Co-op opened in 2013 and has evolved over the years, changing locations and taking over the Saturday morning arts and craft markets outside Town Square.

Each member of the co-op exhibiting and selling artwork in the store is required to pay a portion of the rent on the space.

Artwork inside the store includes a mix of jewelry, fabric art, photos, handmade cards, paintings, drawings, collage pieces and more.

The store is open Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The arts and crafts market runs Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. until Sept. 21.

McConnell noted in the early days the co-op had 20 members, and that membership has declined over the years.

“One thing we required of the members is they have to be able to work a day in the store,” McConnell said. “A lot of people were like, ‘No, I don’t want to do that. I just want to bring my stuff in and sell it.’ Well, that’s not an active member at that point and leaving it to the other people to carry on your part.”

She noted another factor in the drop in membership has been members moving away.

“The people with us now have really been here the whole time and they teach classes here in the building,” McConnell said. “The [co-op members] are really talented and I think they really care about being here.”

One such artist is Donna Marquart, who began making stained glass artwork in the late 1970s when she and her husband were living in Germany. Marquart joined the co-op in 2013 because she liked the idea of a cooperative, where artists split the work up evenly.

“I think the concept of working together, cooperating together, it’s a very Wisconsin thing,” Marquart said.

Since joining the Corner Store, Marquart has taught a variety of classes in Town Square, explaining her copper foil method of stained glass.

Local Artist Lelia Ziebell joined the co-op in 2016, because she was looking for a place to sell her jewelry.

After working a few shifts in the store, she continued to get more involved.

“I think the artists co-op has offered the community more opportunities for art education with classes and workshops,” Ziebell said. “So, I find that more rewarding and I like to be part of something that’s just starting up and helping them succeed.”

In 2016, the co-op moved locations in order to make room for Hangers: Resale Therapy. Coincidentally it was the same year the co-op began running the Saturday market.

“The Friday market is stronger population-wise and because so much of Town Square is volunteers, they didn’t want to discontinue [the Saturday market]. But they couldn’t continue it with the staffing they had.” McConnell said. “So, because we’re in the building and doing a similar sort of thing, they asked if we would like to take it over.”

Vendors can pay a flat fee to sell products for the entire season or they can pay $10 to rent a space for just one week.

FROM LEFT, Artist Becky Anderson shows Terry Quinn, Deb Quinn (obstructed) and Bill Parry her paintings. Anderson has taught multiple art classes in Town Square since getting involved with the co-op. Joe Schulz Photo

“It’s a way for us to get a little visibility and it helps get people into our place,” McConnell said of the market.

Artists in the co-op earn commission on custom pieces and each artist’s business card is available in the store or at their market booths.

“It’s just a matter of contacting one of us and we can make it,” McConnell said.

She believes the Corner Store is an important part of Green Lake because it gives local artists who can’t afford to open their own storefront a place to showcase and sell their work.

“You want people to come in and see the flavor of your town and we are a small part of that,” McConnell said.

McConnell has been involved with Town Square since the beginning and has seen it grow into the community center it is today.

She even remembers voting to save the building, which had been the Green Lake County Courthouse, when she served on the county board.

McConnell also recalled cleaning out the building with volunteers shortly after Town Square purchased the property.

“Things were left behind; 100 years of stuff,” she said. “It was a huge endeavor and hundreds of people came and volunteered their time to clean it out.”

McConnell is glad to see Town Square growing and is proud to contribute to the revitalization of Green Lake.

“When I come through here now on Saturdays … people are all out here selling and talking to the community…,” McConnell said. “I think that’s really good for Green Lake and our members and the people who are a part of this, that’s really rewarding.”