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Mobocracy Closes Doors After Short Stint in Port's Downtown

Business owner Craig Kasten said the second-hand vintage clothing store will continue to sell items online, citing a seasonal economy and lack of foot traffic in its inability to maintain its Port Washington storefront.

About a year after Craig Kasten launched his vintage clothing store Mobocracy in Port Washington, the business owner was forced to close his doors for good.

"It was kind of a combination (of reasons)," he said. "It was so seasonal out there, and that kind of hit a little bit harder than we anticipated … there was definitely a lack of foot traffic."

The , at 307 N. Franklin St., and officially closed again mid-December. Kasten said sorting through the remaining products is an ongoing task.

"We are in the process of selling out of our home, I still have the website set up (but) don't really have the full inventory right now," Kasten said, adding that they are working to settle in before the online store will be completely up and running. 

Kasten said he did have some "ups" while managing the storefront in the city's downtown, though the business scene proved mostly to be a struggle in Port.

During the summer, Kasten had been hopeful festivals would drive customers — but he said most people seemed to stay in the marina area during that time, a trend not helpful to businesses in downtown. Kasten said in talking to other business owners, he's not the only one that felt this was a struggle.

And while city officials and business owners alike were hopeful that the addition of Duluth Trading would boost business — Kasten said it didn't seem to help: people seemed instead to visit Duluth Trading and then leave the city.

"I'm sure it will help the economy (in Port), but as far as small business (it didn't)," he said, adding that he'd be hopeful Duluth's presence may have a larger impact in the longterm.

Customers interested in knowing more about Mobocracy's online stock can follow the store on Facebook or visit the company's website.

Amy Gannon January 29, 2013 at 05:19 PM
It seems that Mr. Kasten is putting all the blame on Port Washington instead of where it belongs. Clearly, Mr. Kasten did not do his homework before opening the vintage clothing store downtown. It's no secret that Port Washington summer months prove to be more lucrative than winter. Also, Mobocracy did not participate in ANY of the festivals which showed his lack of interest in succeeding in the downtown in my opinion. You can not run a business on if I build it they will come concept. He did NO marketing and his hours proved to be inconsistent. I think that we need to get away from the blame game and businesses need to get involved in the community they operate in. Enough of what can you do for me and more of how can we work together. Port Washington has many successful businesses and some of them were right across the street from Mobocracy. Those businesses choose to be involved in the community, market themselves and keep consistent hours. Port Washington is open for business and it's moving in the right direction.
Robert B. January 29, 2013 at 08:08 PM
What it takes for a "Mom & Pop" to survive is providing a quality niche product/service that we can't get at a big box. There are two perfect examples in town: Bernie's and Drew's. The quality of meat at Bernie's can't even come close to any of the groceries in the area. Thinking about the Jerky and Brats right now are making my mouth water. Drew's sells more variety of certain items and offers rentals. A while back I was able to get a plumbing part at Drew's that wasn't available at Home Depot, for example. These are two examples of small businesses that figured it out.
Greg Huegerich January 29, 2013 at 09:55 PM
Good posts. Its definitely not a "if you build it they will come" kind of environment. Marketing needs to be done as well as being open and accessible during festivals that generate foot traffic. I'm always surprised at the number of places that aren't open during parades and festivals. That being said, there are a number of niche business that do seem to thrive running a fairly limited schedule (Baltica leaps to mind, but its a *really* nice place). I haven't seen the actual rent prices in Port, but what I hear from various people is they tend to be high, with some very optimistic statements from the landlords about foot traffic, festival traffic, big burst revenue etc when the prices are clearly explained (the two pizza places that opened in the old dairy queen location seemed to fall victim to this, with their rent being much higher than they'd ever make in an average month). Obviously its on the buyers to do a little better job of realizing that's just not how it works when they agree to their leases. I'd wager that's where some of the sour grapes come from in the above article. The thing to note is, a similar type of store has been running in Saukville for several years now, it rarely seems to be open, but I'm guessing the rent is much lower, and there's not a lot of wandering shopping traffic on the Saukville triangle.
Scott Ziegler January 29, 2013 at 10:06 PM
Amy, Couldn't agree more. It seems that it is easier for a failed business owner to blame the community for a lack of support than it is to do some research and write a business plan that fits the community. There have been a number of stores that have not fit Port at all and they blame Port rather than find a community that fits their vision/plan. You can have a nice location and what you feel is a great product line but if it is out of sync with the local make up it is going to be a bumpy ride.
Greg January 30, 2013 at 12:44 AM
Is St. Vinny's a big box store?
Robert B. January 30, 2013 at 12:26 PM
If I remember from an article I read, the place in Saukville is mostly web based. The store acts as a storage for all the clothes and any sales in the store are gravy. I could be way off but that makes sense considering the location.
Greg Huegerich January 30, 2013 at 03:16 PM
That's very possible and with that type of business its a reasonable model to follow. The other, relatively short leap of logic might be that any foot traffic that is generated by visitors to Duluth Trading company .... well, just a guess that they're not as likely to be in the market for "vintage clothing".
sms1022 January 30, 2013 at 04:29 PM
They often were not open the hours that were posted on their door. After stopping a couple of times and the store not being as posted on the hours sign I just gave up. Can't blame the city for this one. Look how Zing has grown and the tea shop is doing well. Lots of hard work and consistency.
Kathy January 30, 2013 at 06:58 PM
I live in Port and was just downtown a few weeks ago - did not even know this shop existed. I agree with Amy Gannon if the shop owner was offered to partake in downtown events and represent as a business, he missed the boat. A small business cannot just open it's doors, shlep up a website and wait for droves of people to waltz thru it's doors. A small business needs a solid marketing plan and any advertising has to be clear, compelling and consistent. I heard the business owner took a couple of ads out in local paper- he should of taken his family out for dinner with the money, one gets little results with random ads. The website? Ack! No backend tags= a website that cannot be found. That site does not come up under a clothing search for zip code.Hello? Shame to see a small business crash and burn so quickly especially when there is free help out there like score.org and the sba.gov- both excellent resources for start ups.
Kathy January 30, 2013 at 07:09 PM
Bernies and Drews are long time business residents. If either were to be the new kids on the block they would face the same struggles as anyone else opening a new business. You can have the best products and service, knowing how to reach that niche market is the tricky part. *wink*
Robert B. January 31, 2013 at 02:21 PM
Kathy, you have a very valid point but the nature of both businesses, when they were new, were just as fragile as the new kids on the block of today. When Bernie's opened the doors in the 1940s there were 8 or 9 butcher shops in town. The world changed and people started buying all their meat at the grocery store. While all the other butchers went out of business, Bernie's figured out a way to stay open for 72 years.
Howard Hinterthuer February 09, 2013 at 01:39 PM
Business entrepreneurs need guidance on how much capital they will need to survive the first five years. The need a written business and marketing plans, plus a whole lot of research into shopper demographics, a comprehensive list of likely costs, and more. The Main Street Program, Chamber of Commerce, Bankers, Realtors, and City Government need to be very active with potential business owners on the front end. Instead, this owner opened a store that didn't stand a chance. The City needs a coordinated long-range planning process so that we can all move forward together with confidence and a chance of success.
Gail Bennett February 09, 2013 at 04:04 PM
I agree with Howard. As a small business owner who owned a shop in Port, I understand first hand that rent and overhead can make or break you. Port residents are great about rallying around their new businesses and did a great job supporting us. However, our rent was way too high and the Main Street / Buy Local program did not have a good strategic plan on how to coordinate the marina traffic with the local/downtown shops. One example was that most downtown shops would close during the major festivals. Ours didn't so we did very well, but tourists would complain that the town wasn't welcoming them by having most shops closed so staff could participate in festivals. I think that if Port wants to be a town that has cute shopping, the Main Street program, Chamber and Tourism programs need a coordinated strategic plan on how to work with landlords to bring down rent and also how to work to direct marina traffic to the downtown area. I don't see this as the "community's" issue at all. Port customers were awesome and waiting to see a vibrant downtown that they can support. Good job - Mobracracy for hanging in there for a whole year!
Gail Bennett February 09, 2013 at 04:19 PM
Oh and one more thing - the shops that are doing well in Port are working their tails off. Some of those owners also have full-time jobs and their whole families are supporting the success of those stores because they are all dedicated to the vibrancy of their community. I would encourage those of you who are blaming the ones who "failed" to take a minute and encourage those who haven't failed. Stop by and tell them, "Thanks for all you do to create a vibrant community. We are so glad you are here and appreciate your incredible investment. Thank you for working 24 hours a day with little time to rest so we can have a cute town with shopping." Until you invest tens of thousands of dollars in a community by opening a small retail shop, you will never know the amount of work it takes to keep doors open. You pay rent, utilities, vendors and employees before you pay yourself. I will bet ALL of the shop owners that are doing well are not taking any income home for themselves - and yet, they are employing community members who need jobs. Some of these may be your teenagers. Once again, overhead and a strong business association who is committed to driving traffic to local businesses is EVERYTHING to a small business owner. Again, please thank those small business owners who have invested in your community and patronize them when you can - knowing that 68 cents of every dollar spent in a local business stays in that local community. They are there for you.
Kathy February 10, 2013 at 03:01 AM
Robert, I am unsure about the statement of downtown at one time supporting 8 or 9 butcher shops. Even if the town did support that many butcher shops at one time, my point was that doing business today is very different then it was even a decade ago. As you pointed out, people started buying meat from grocery stores instead of the butcher shops. Why? Price and convienence a grocery store would offer are two possible reasons. Bernies ability to stay in business could have been for many reasons like; customer loyalty, product quality & choice, location, unique services IE; fresh cut T-bone to order. Also, marketing and advertising where much different critters then today. Word of mouth was and still the most strongest way to drive business. Today though we are flooded with advertising messages through many sources. A business today must have a strong marketing plan. As the the old marketing saying goes, a customer is thinking about a new business; "I don't know who you are, I don't know your product, who you are or what you stand for. Now what where you trying to sell me?" A business today has to send clear, concise and consistent marketing messages via advertising methods to gain traffic to it's doors. As I stated earlier, a business had to identify it's niche and then know how to reach it. As to the shop in article. taking out random ads in local paper was it's first bullet. The local paper may boast 22,000 readership, was their target buyer a reader? Doubt it.
Kathy February 10, 2013 at 03:11 AM
I was a part of Port BiD (06-09) and the Main Street Programs infant year (2009), I was told some buildings asking 20.00 a sq foot. Town leaders and business groups were trying to speak with building owners and work with potential business occupants.
Robert B. February 10, 2013 at 05:11 PM
This is where I got the 8 or 9 butcher shop comment from: http://www.ci.port-washington.wi.us/History/SkerisButcherShop.htm
Kathy February 10, 2013 at 08:49 PM
@ Robert You stated "When Bernie's opened the doors in the 1940s there were 8 or 9 butcher shops in town" You got that info from Obit posted on the city website, whom obtained thier info from the Milwaukee Urinal (Journal) hee hee There were 10 butcher shops in Ports business history. I highly doubt all ten (or even 8 or 9) were in business at anytime all at once between 1941 and present. I checked the historical society page for info. Never trust the Milwaukee urinal for "facts" Port cannot support more then 3 or four pizza places for goodness sakes. The Historical Societies web page did not list dates of Butcher shops, for a waltz down memory lane here are the Meat Market / Butcher Shops listed: Bernies Conrads Meat Market Henry Dankert - Butcher Frank Hoff Meat Market Independent Meat Market Johl and Stark Meat Market Kuhn Bro's Meats Port Home Meat Market Les Sheer Meat Market Sturm Meat Market I do not have the time to hit the historical society to check on actual dates of operation. Perhaps we can agree on this statement; "Bernies outlasted 8 or 9 different butcher shops since 1941" :0) ~Cheers~

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