BUZZ: If the shoe fits

Long-time footwear store HT Cobblery will wind down now that its building is owned by Compass Properties 


HT Cobblery building sold: Now owned by Compass Properties, a second story above the hotspot could become downtown apartments, which are in high demand.

Compass Properties has purchased the HT Cobblery building at Third and Jefferson streets in downtown Wausau, and plans to turn the high-profile corner location into swanky apartments and a national or regional retail store.

That’s the tentative plan anyway, says Compass Property General Manager Mark Craig.

Compass closed the deal on June 14, capping off what Craig says has been a proposal five years in the making. Compass owns several properties in downtown, including the BMO Harris Bank building (now named City Square) at Scott and Third street, and much of the 300 block of Third Street.

No plans have been finalized for the HT Cobblery building, Craig says, but ideas include remodeling the second floor into seven apartments, including a pretty sweet rooftop patio overlooking the adjacent 400 Block square. The 7,000 square foot main floor, currently the HT Cobblery shoe store, could be leased out to a national or regional company.

The deal ends speculation about what would become of the building after the Cobblery’s owners announced it was for sale. Because it’s such a prime location, the city even worked up plans that show what the building could look like with a rooftop diner overlooking the square.

A more precise plan will be developed in the next couple of months, Craig says. What’s fairly certain are more downtown apartments because of the high demand. “People want to live downtown,” Craig says. “We rarely even advertise (Compass Properties) apartments because they go so quickly.”

Compass last month also bought the Cheryl’s Framing building next to HT Cobblery, which means it owns nearly all of the 300 block of Third Street. Craig says the company has tentative plans to remodel apartments above Polito’s, Cheryl’s Framing and the former Clay Corner location. That could mean 14 new units.

As for HT Cobblery, owner Terry Koss says that after listing the building for sale he was planning to retire. Now that the building is sold, he might simply downsize and keep the shoe store open, either in a smaller footprint in the current building while possible or at another location.

If he does stay in business, Koss says he would likely focus on brands that sell well, such as Birkenstock or Keen. “Some of the brands aren’t affected by the internet as much as others,” he says.

Hatch highlights entrepreneurs with ‘Shark Tank’ event

There’s a statistic that state economists aren’t terribly proud of: Wisconsin, for the past three years, has been dead last in business startups compared to other states.

But Wausau has bucked that trend, and the latest entrepreneurial event in Wausau looked to highlight that.

The YWCA on June 22 hosted Hatch, a Shark Tank-style event in which four entrepreneurs competed for a prize of $2,000 and the chance to compete in the finals for $10,000. Hatch, started by the Milwaukee social engagement consultant NEWaukee and angel investment firm BrightStar, previously has happened in Stevens Point and Wisconsin Rapids, and will head next to Marshfield. MCDEVCO organized Wausau’s event. 

The Wausau winner,, is a project that would help universities collect unpublished research so all that work doesn’t go to waste. Also presented in the event: an app designed to collect deals from businesses such as bars and restaurants in a certain geographic area; a social media aggregator to collect multiple feeds (and earn money through advertising); and a mobile escape room game that businesses could use for team building and workforce development.

Playing a big role in the event is BrightStar, an angel investment firm now aimed at central Wisconsin. As BrightStar CEO and President Tom Shannon told the audience Thursday, Brightstar specifically avoided offering mentorship or coaching because the area is already rich with resources doing that. The angel investor group instead is focusing on capital to help fill gaps in financing for new and growing businesses.

Wausau, bucking the state trend of being weak in startup activity, ranks in the top 75 metro areas for startup employment and is second in the state only to Oshkosh, according to U.S. Census data.