Dec 20, 2011

A fashionable neighbor: Shopbop transforms stretch of Madison’s East Washington Ave

Excerpted from Wisconsin State Journal
by Barry Adams

Since the late 1800s, a two-block stretch along East Washington Avenue was home to Gisholt Machine Co., one of the city’s largest manufacturers.

When it closed in 1971, about 875 people lost their jobs. In later years, the Gisholt space hosted a number of small businesses and for a time, 450 employees of Marquip, which closed in 2000.

They owned homes, shopped in the area and, after a long day of factory work, would trek two blocks to the south for a cool one at Coughlin’s Tavern at the corner of South Baldwin and Williamson streets.

Life has again returned to this 210,000-square-foot industrial stronghold.

Only now the employees are focused on designer women’s clothing instead of machines, grab coffee at the EVP across the street, order noontime sandwiches at the Willy Street Co-op and unwind with local craft beers and music at what is now the Crystal Corner Bar.

Shopbop, an online, high-end fashion retailer started out of a downtown clothing store in 2000, has 300 employees and spent more than $5 million converting the former Gisholt space into its headquarters.

The company, which leases the space, expects to be at more than 400 employees by the end of 2012, could hit 650 by 2015 and is seen as a key spark to the redevelopment of the East Washington Avenue corridor.

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