Women In Business Women-owned businesses thrive in downtown New Ulm

Rosa Schnobrich, one of New Ulm’s earliest businesswomen, stands behind her the counter of City Meat Market. (Photo courtesy of Brown County Historical Society Museum)

NEW ULM — Downtown Minnesota Street is a major asset for New Ulm, bringing in hundreds of shoppers and tourist each week.

One of the unique features about the Minnesota Street businesses is easy to overlook on first glance, but impossible to miss once you notice it — at lot of them are run by women.

As of the end of 2017 there are at approximately 20 women-owned businesses along a four block stretch of Minnesota Street. The businesses include Ashlee’s Bridal, Bailey Creek Boutique, Double Dimension, The Fruit Cellar, Gallery 512, Haar Frizeur, Inspired, Joni’s, Lola’s, Lasting Impressions, New Ulm’s Own, No. 213, Primitive Gathers, Route 1 Interiors, Spinning Spools, Thimble Box, the Wellness Collective and several others.

The women-owned businesses do not stop on Minnesota Street. A few blocks off Minnesota Street are other businesses run by women including A to Zinnia, Turner Hall and even the Brown County Historical Society Museum.

The high number of women-run businesses should come as no surprise, considering New Ulm Area Chamber Commerce, which is located downtown, is also run by women.

Jessica Fischer and Danielle Marti Fischer stand in the display window of their shop Gallery 512. The sister have fun the business for the last four years. About two years ago they opened a second Gallery 512 in Mankato. (Photo by Clay Schuldt)

Chamber Marketing Specialist Sarah Warmka said she had seen a similar article about women businesses in Mankato and realized New Ulm also has a ton of women-owned businesses.

Chamber CEO/President Audra Shaneman credits great collaboration and communication for the number of women-run businesses. The support from other women helps draw women into the role of entrepreneur. Women networking events have also brought highly qualified women into the business community.

There has been a growing trend of women in the work place. Chamber Retail Service Specialist Cara Knauf confirmed the Smart Start New Business Seminars coordinated by the Chamber are mostly attended by women — about 70 percent of the classes are women.

Sandy Reinke, owner of the Bailey Creek Boutique took part in these seminar before opening her shop in June. Reinke endorsed the class as a great learning opportunity.

“I think women are not afraid to keep learning things,” Reinke said. “We’re not afraid to ask directions.”

Several of the women instructors and staff of The Wellness Collective gather in the lobby with a few children: (top row L to R) Jan Uhlenkamp, Vi Plagge, Lori Mathiowetz (holding Eve Mathiowetz), Penny Mathiowetz, Marja Sowers (holding Hazel Sowers), Eden Bliss Kalk and Joan Lindholm. (Bottom Row L to R) Amy Johnson, Kinzie Eckstein (holding Evie and Ayla Eckstein) and Julie Mielke. (Clay Schuldt Photo)

Reinke opened the shop on the belief that women were struggling to find their desired clothing size. She said opening the business was a leap of faith, but New Ulm was very loyal to its businesses.

“A day doesn’t go by that some one doesn’t say thank you for having this business,” Reinke said.

The owners of Gallery 512 expressed a similar sentiment. Sisters Jessica Fischer and Danielle Marti Fischer started their business four years ago and continue to find support from all over the community. Danielle said most of their customers are women, but even men who have never visited Gallery 512 have offered encouragement for the boutique.

“There is a lot of energy here,” Jessica said. “There is a whole little community here and it’s very charming.”

It was this charm that attracter the Fischer siblings to open Gallery 512 on Minnesota Street.

Business owner Sandy Reinke waits for customer at Bailey Creek Boutique. Reinke opened shop in the summer of 2017. (Photos by Clay Schuldt)

“When we started there were already a lot businesses geared toward women. It was something [these women] were passionate about and other women appreciate that,” Jessica said.

Its not unusual for large groups of women to come downtown on a day trip with their moms and sisters. The Fischer sister’s feel New Ulm has done a great job of encouraging and promoting the downtown businesses.

“There is a community over competition,” Jessica said.

Kari Linbo, owner of Route 1 Interiors, also sought business in New Ulm for the charm. She feels that many of her fellow female entrepreneurs opened shop in the downtown district for the same reason.

“A lot of it is the charm of downtown and lot of it is women seeing the beauty and potential,” Linbo said. “It’s not just other women who are supportive. It’s is everyone in the community. There are a lot of sweet people helping out.”

Owner of Route 1 Interiors Kari Linbo has been in operation on Minnesota and First South Street since 2014. Opening the store in New Ulm’s historic downtown is a dream come true.

A little over a year ago a group of women open the Wellness Collective on Minnesota Street. Currently 17 women work at the Wellness Collective including staff and instructors. Lori Mathiowetz, spokeswoman for the Collective, admitted that it never occurred to her before that there were so many women-owned businesses, but she said it was very encouraging and gave her a natural sense of community.

“I feel women have a vision of their business and stick to that vision,” she said. Mathiowetz believes the increase in women-run businesses is not limited to New Ulm but represents women everywhere pushing for leadership roles. Mathiowetz felt there was no one factor in women pushing forward now, but several factors that made like-minded women decide to no longer sit on their dreams and visions.

Kathleen Backer, the Executive Director for Brown County Historical Society, has conducted research into the earlier business women of New Ulm and found several earlier examples.

Rosa Schnobrich open her own meat market called “City Meat Market.” Schnobrich open her business in the early 20th century at a time it was unusual for a women to own any kind business, much less a meat shop. The City Meat Market operated out of several locations before Schnobrich bought and remodeled the building at 3 South Minnesota Street in 1929.

Around the same Mrs. Emma Dongus ran a dry goods store at the intersection of Minnesota and 1st South Street. Originally she ran the store with her husband, but after his death she became the sole owner. Mrs. Dongus would run the business with her daughter until her death in 1941 at age 70.

Recently New Ulm mourned the loss of Marlene Domeier, who passed away in November. Domeier was famous for operating Domeier’s German Store on south Minnesota Street. The shop became famous for its decorations and was visited by German mayors and other dignitaries.

Domeier was described as pioneering businesswoman. She was named the first woman president of the New Ulm Chamber of Commerce and served on its board of directors in the 1970s. Domeier was not the first women to serve the New Ulm Chamber of Commerce. From 1947 to 1979 Hazel Meine worked at the chamber and retired as manager. Meine was the first full-time woman manager of a Chamber of Commerce in Minnesota.

“We do have a lot of strong women in New Ulm history,” current Chamber President Shaneman said. “We have stories of strong women to inspire, but we also live in a time where there are opportunities for women and they can get the financial support needed.”


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