About half of State Street businesses now reopen while most artwork, boards remain

MADISON, Wis. – As the City of Madison releases a plan for a “Downtown Recovery Program” to jump-start the dozens of businesses struggling in the State Street area, shops and restaurants are in the process of reopening.

According to Madison’s Central Business Improvement District, about half of businesses on State Street are now open again and a fifth have taken down their boards. It comes after businesses boarded their windows in response to three days of violence in the area.

In recent weeks, artists have painted the plywood with murals and artwork, changing the face of State Street.

“I actually like it a lot better than windows,” said 13-year-old Nevy. “It’s really pretty and a lot nicer to walk down here and take a look at all the art.”

On Thursday, Nevy and her friends began painting their own mural on a boarded storefront.

“It’s of this Black woman standing in front of these flames with the pride flag holding a fist up,” Nevy said. “I wanted to be a part of the movement in some way, but it’s kind of hard when you’re so young.”

Along the street, business looks different, too. The Soap Opera has been doing door service as they prepare to welcome customers back in to the specialty bath and body store. Some businesses won’t be opening back up at all following the COVID-19 shutdown. Rioting and looting prompted further closures right when many businesses were starting to reopen.

“It’s been very hard,” said Stacey Scannell, owner of The Soap Opera. “It’s just a lot of difficult situations. My friends and neighbors down here who own other businesses, we’re all for the cause, so we want to support that and we also want to operate business at the same time.”

Scannell separates those who damaged stores from the peaceful protests she supports. She plans to reopen the store to customers Friday morning.

“We’re excited to get reopened again, get people down here, and the protesters, people should hear your voice,” she said.

While it’s not quite business as usual for her, Scannell said that’s OK.

I love my artwork to be honest,” she said. “I love downtown State Street. I’ve been here a long time. It’s just a different way of looking at it, the art.”

Nevy and her friends hope the art will provide a new perspective.

“It’s awesome. I’m excited,” Nevy said while painting. “We figured it was a peaceful way we could get involved with everything going on and spread our message.”

Businesses unable to immediately recover from property damage because of rioting can apply for funds raised by local organizations until Tuesday at this website.

It’s to be determined how long the murals will stay on State Street or what will happen to them once they do come down, but each one will be photographed and archived.