Appleton Downtown Inc. Celebrates 25 Years of Successful Development

Downtown Appleton-ONE GREAT PLACE-bug-4cAmid a celebratory air, Appleton Downtown, Inc. honored local businesses that are building the future of the city’s downtown while recognizing those who laid the groundwork for development and growth over the past 25 years during its annual dinner festivities Tuesday, March 15 at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel.

The event was sponsored by Johnson Bank, Tundraland, Short Elliott Hendrickson, Stellar Blue Technologies, Peterson, Berk and Cross, S.C. and Fox Cities Sign & Lighting Services, LLC.

ADI Board President John Peterson welcomed the crowd by saying, “This past year was truly an exciting year of growth, opportunity and placemaking efforts for downtown,” keying on ADI’s focus on promoting the city as “One Great Place” and developing creative placemaking initiatives in the downtown.

Peterson went on to acknowledge the “commitment and tenacity” of the original ADI board members, some of whom were present at Tuesday’s event, who met weekly to get the organization established a quarter century ago. Also honored at the event were downtown businesses which have been in business for 25 years or more.

Outgoing board members thanked for their service included Robyn Gruner, AT&T; Sarah Schneider, Thrivent Financial; Mary Greiner, Schenck SC; Joe Kohlbeck, The Bar on the Avenue, and Angela Rust, Johnson Bank.


While lauding the past accomplishments of ADI and downtown business leaders, ADI Executive Director Jennifer Stephany also emphasized the great deal of planning currently underway in the city, citing the Envision Appleton project being led by the consulting firm Short Elliott Hendrickson as part of the process of updating the City’s Comprehensive Plan, including the Downtown Plan co-funded by the City and ADI.

For impacting the downtown economy with its relocation, expansion and renovation, the 2016 The Downtown Plan rewrite is intended to inform public policy and help to guide and build on the physical, natural, cultural and social assets including the volunteer efforts that drive Downtown's role as the heart of the city,” Stephany said. She encouraged attendees to participate in public listening sessions intended to gather public input on the plan.

Awards Presentations

In addition to a dinner and auctions, the event featured the presentation of ADI’s annual business awards to exceptional downtown entrepreneurs.

The Walter Kalata Landmark Award was presented to the downtown Appleton YMCA. The award honors a business that has become a landmark in the downtown, a business that has withstood the test of time and operates with passion and a strong commitment to downtown.

The downtown YMCA currently has a $1.9 million renovation underway. The improvements will bring increased security, improved lobby and gathering areas, and improved accessibility. The YMCA encourages good health and fosters connections through fitness, sports, fun and shared interests.

Tom and Steve Lonsway were presented the 2016 Dreamers and Doers Award for their vision, determination and artisanship to grow not just one business but three -- Stone Cellar Brew Pub, Stone Arch Brewery and Stone Cellar at Riverview Gardens – and for their support of local artisan music and the Mile of Music festival.

Presented to a person whose dedication and enthusiasm have had a significant positive impact on downtown and who displays an overwhelming passion for its success, the Bernie Pearlman Downtowner Award was granted to Mark Behnke, owner of Bazil’s Pub, Olde Town Tavern, No Idea Bar and Behnke Properties.

A downtown business owner for 24 years with 12 properties in the district, Behnke also is a board member for the Trout Museum of Art and the Business Improvement District.

Downtown Renovation Award was given to Katsu Ya of Japan. Katsu Ya moved from its original location on the south side of College Avenue into expanded and renovated space at the intersection of College and N. Division St.

Antojitos Mexicanos was the recipient of the 2016 President’s Award. This award is presented to an individual, group or business that goes above and beyond in its partnership with ADI and its commitment to downtown.

One of 5 businesses that relocated and expanded within the downtown district, Antojitos was cited for its investment and entrepreneurial drive to expand into a “must go” culinary destination in downtown.

Presented to a business new to downtown in the last two years that shows longevity and fulfills a unique need in the downtown, the Rising Star Award was given to Crazy Sweet. Opened in 2014, this unique candy store capitalizes on its participation in every promotion and event ADI offers.

Despite being ill, the recipient of ADI’s 2016 Volunteer of the Year Award jumped in to assist the staff during a data pirating crisis to restore its data and systems, and set up protections against future attempted disruptions. The honor was presented to Gregg Frank, who has provided technology services to ADI as a volunteer since 2001.

Presented to the business that stands out from the rest and captures the admiration of the downtown community for their ability to continually represent the spirit of downtown through their innovation, fortitude and reputation, the Downtown Business of the Year Award was given to Empower Yoga.

This business was established in downtown Appleton in 2010, expanded to a new location in 2012, and expanded again in 2015. Through their craft they promote wellness, balance and strength in all people.

For additional details of the ADI annual awards program and the organization’s development and promotional initiatives, please contact Anne Wiegman, director of Marketing, by calling 920- 954-9112, or email

ADI is a non-profit advocacy source for the businesses and merchants of Downtown Appleton, presenting the weekly Downtown Appleton Indoor Winter Farm Market and a host of other events. For more information about ADI and/or a complete listing of upcoming Downtown happenings, visit, on Facebook at the Appleton Downtown or Downtown Appleton Food & Fun Fan Pages, or on Twitter @downtowncool and @dwtnappleton.

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