La Crosse business owner’s adversity leads to lifelong dream

Many of us have a little thrift shopping itch, where we try to find a treasure for a small price.

There is one shop hidden off the beaten path of Mormon Coulee Road that offers more than its low prices.

The RootinCrown on La Crosse’s south side is known for its partnership with local nonprofits.

Owner Mary Jo Wilbur said the business was her dream, but the success did not come easy.

“It’s fun for the shopper it’s fun for the donator,” Wilbur said. “It’s just positive all the way around.”

Wilbur said the store brings happiness to everyone involved.

“It’s a feel-good store,” Wilbur said.

Unlike a corporate consignment shop, people bring in donations and RootinCrown volunteers leaders clean and organize the donations. Then they give the person who donated the items the power to pick where the money from the sale goes.

“They can actually go support any organization they want to and feel good about supporting something that means something to them,” said Judy Hunter, RootinCrown manager.

Wilbur said running a store is tough.

“It’s hard work,” Wilbur said. “We probably put in 60-80 hours per week doing this on top of our full time jobs.”

She was able to fulfill her dream after watching her mom battle breast cancer along with a divorce that forced her to sell her first consignment shop in Coon Valley.

“It humbles you,” Wilbur said.

She said the inspiration of her mother, who is still in her life, helped her open RootinCrown with the name symbolizing strength, community, and growth.

“We are definitely growing strong,” Wilbur said.

Despite a less-than-easy path to success, she said, the light in her mother’s eyes gave her the will to never give up.

“You can’t quit,” Wilbur said. “My mom didn’t quit when she had breast cancer.”

Her mother, Trudy Brieske, said she supports everything her daughter has accomplished.

“I am happy I belong here.” Brieske said. “She’s my daughter and I really go for everything she’s got in her dream. This is her dream and I just love it.”

Wilbur said her mom’s positive mindset changed her life.

“I just looked at her different through all of that,” Wilbur said. “I needed to change my course and my career and start doing something good, too.”

Now the mother and daughter have something money can’t buy.

“She’s still here. I need to spend more time with my mom,” Wilbur said. “She cuts all the labels and cleans all the products. She is probably one of the hardest workers I have ever seen.”

She said even while she battling cancer, the doctors enjoyed seeing her mother because of the smile she carried everyday. Her upbeat nature remains while she works at the shop.

“Everybody loves her,” Wilbur said. “Costumers come in to see Trudy.”

More than 40 nonprofits are now on board with the shop. Wilbur said they are evidence of strong dedication.

“We are not out to make a gold mine out (on) anything,” Wilbur said “We just want to do good for the community and have the community respond to our hard work.”

The store gives 50 percent of every sale to the specific nonprofit designated on the items price tag.

The RootinCrown is opening a new location in Onalaska in the next month. Wilbur said she sold her house in town to make the second store possible.

RootinCrown is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and they are looking for volunteers.

Visit rootincrown.com for more information.