As part of a country-wide initiative in 2016, Bon-Ton-owned department stores across the state began carrying Wisconsin-made products in its “Close to Home” sections. This was similar to what West Elm has done with its own local section. And when Nordstrom opened its first store in the state in the fall of 2015, it emphasized the Midwestern art that decorates its walls, had area children participate in decorating the kids’ section, and threw a big opening gala that benefited local charities. The idea of shopping local, or at least actively involving the local community, has clearly gained popularity at the top of the retail food chain. And for Bon-Ton Stores, the “Close to Home” sections were good for its bottom line.
The Milwaukee- and York, Pennsylvania-based company is now opening up the opportunity to independent makers to submit themselves for consideration for the “Close to Home” section, which will soon have a presence in 14 additional Boston Store and Younkers stores across the state, which is up from 12 in the state and five in the Milwaukee area. The program is also expanding nationally from 45 stores to 150 by this summer. According to a release, the first wave of the “Close to Home” sections featured 100 small businesses.
You can take a gander at some of the Wisconsin-made merch Bon-Ton-owned stores already carry in the special section on its website here. Much of it falls into the category of Wisconsin kitsch, but not all. They carry Big White Yeti candles, Koss headphones, and Sister Bay-based Seaquist Canning’s salsas and fruit butters.