Runaway proposes expansion, others have relocation plans
By Jason Arndt
The Chestnut Street loop in downtown Burlington will undergo a business shakeup with a proposed expansion of the Runaway Micropub and Nanobrewery and the planned move of Burlington Menswear to the former Burlington Area Chamber of Commerce office.
Owner Bernard Petersen, of the Runaway, 109 E. Chestnut St., said the shakeup comes after an unexpected purchase of the building next door consisting of the chamber office, Burlington Menswear and four residential units on the second floor about 10 months ago.
The unexpected purchase came unsolicited through the previous owner who approached him within the last year, Petersen said.
He said it allows him to satisfy the long-term vision of the Runaway’s expansion.
Additionally, the proposed expansion also came at an impeccable time, since the chamber always had plans to find a better space in the downtown area while Burlington Menswear looked to freshen up its establishment.
“The chamber had talked about possibly looking for a new space,” Petersen said.
Recently, the chamber office at 113 E. Chestnut St. experienced water damage after an upstairs tenant began running a bathtub and eventually fell asleep, which caused flooding.
The recent water mishap, meanwhile, forced the chamber to move out a couple months early because they already planned on moving to a new building in downtown Burlington in the fall.
“The chamber wasn’t really happy with the space, they wanted to move into a new space, and it didn’t make any sense to move them temporarily out, put the same spots together, and have them move back in for a couple of months.”
Executive Director M.T. Boyle, of the chamber, which is now known as Experience Burlington, said the visitor’s center will be closed for the summer.
However, despite the closure, she found the planned shakeup a positive step for businesses in the Chestnut Street loop.
“The chamber’s position is to be a catalyst for growth of our businesses, if we are moving anyway, I would rather make it easier for our businesses to expand,” she said. “We are fine, we are going to be at a temporary space in the summer.”
In the meantime, Experience Burlington staff members will work remotely, but remain available by email and on Facebook.
The Runaway was recently awarded the city’s last Class B liquor license, which expedited the establishment’s planned expansion, Petersen said.
“When I applied for that other liquor license, because only one became available, part of my reason for wanting to get that liquor license was there was an expansion in the future,” he said.
Petersen said the expansion is in the planning stages.
The Runaway, which has been working with an architect, has started receiving bids from contractors.
Under the proposal, the Runaway will open the wall to Burlington Menswear, which will allow the brewery to double its interior space.
“It will double our occupancy capacity and allow us to have our kitchen on the main level,” he said.
Petersen, however, noted the Runaway likely won’t begin its expansion until all construction bids are received and determines how to fund the project.
Even if the Runaway doesn’t move forward on the project, at least in the immediate future, Burlington Menswear will still find a new home in the former chamber office once the property becomes fully restored.
Petersen, who has worked with Burlington Menswear owner Shelly Leverenz, said she approved the plans.
“(Shelly) is pretty excited about it because she has been in that space for over 25 years and it is time to revive some things like the carpeting and light fixtures,’ Petersen said.
Leverenz concurred, adding she has begun acquiring some materials for the move, including fixtures.
“I am positive about it, we are already making plans and getting racks,” Leverenz said.
Leverenz said Burlington Menswear is a locally owned family business specializing in men’s clothing for any occasion such as weddings, funerals, prom, golf wear and offers tailoring services.
Burlington Menswear, she said, satisfies a niche both in the community and region.
“There is not a lot of men’s clothing stores in the area. We are like the southern (Wisconsin) hub for men’s clothing wear,” she said.
As for the upgrades at Burlington Menswear, Leverenz looks forward to making improvements, including a new color scheme.
“You got to lift it up and make it fresh,’ she said.
Experience Burlington plans to move into a new facility in the same property as Bear Realty at 565 Milwaukee Ave.