Old School Branding with Historic Architecture

Gaston School Gallery and SchoolGrounds Cafe, Cottage Grove, WI

Isn’t this most quaint, inviting schoolhouse ever? I’ve always admired this building as I’ve driven past on my way to Madison—its unique architectural lines, the cozy setting, and the decades of learning that surely transpired within its walls. You can imagine my excitement when in recent years it opened as the Gaston School GallerySchoolGrounds Cafe.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Eric Willman, general manager of Gaston School Gallery–SchoolGrounds Cafe, where he describes how historic architecture benefits their business and how they’ve used it to create a successful brand. The gallery and cafe are owned by David Morrow and Eric’s wife, Alissa, heads up the bakery department.

Eric’s conversation is fascinating! If you’ve been aspiring to set up shop in a cool, old building, you for sure want to hear what he has to say.

So check out this, my second podcast. And stop by their stunning shop at the intersection of Hwy N and I-94 (exit 244) in Cottage Grove, Wisconsin. It’s a perfect way to wrap up Historic Preservation Month!

Remembering Why We Can


Every time I travel, I become more and more enamored by this fascinating country. There’s the diverse geography, unique cultures, warm people, and cherished histories. And then there’s the food! And the architecture! Plus the art, linguistics, local customs, and all-around ways of life. My list goes on and on!

My husband and I just returned from vacationing out east. Our first stop was Philadelphia for our son’s graduation (so very proud of him!). Visiting a large city always means lots of walking, but that’s the best way to immerse in its essence. It also helps work off the volumes of delectable food we consume!

Making Bloody Marys in National Mechanics Restaurant, Philadelphia, PA

Are you a Bloody Mary fan? National Mechanics Bar & Restaurant is located in the Old City district and has this outrageous make-your-own Bloody Mary bar. Very fun! That’s the grad there, setting the pace. He educated us on a few cultural differences between Wisconsin and Philly—like how Wisconsinites tend to add a whole salad to their Bloody Marys (pickles, eggs, beef stick, whatever fits in the glass) and Philadelphians go with a simple celery stalk and this mega selection of spices. This restaurant didn’t serve a beer chaser either, which obviously is very Wisconsin. No problem, the Bloody Mary was a perfect toast to a delicious brunch.

Walking the boardwalk at Atlantic City

Originally, we had planned to see the New Jersey shore last fall but Hurricane Sandy put a halt to that. Visiting this spring instead turned out to be perfect timing. The weather was a bit blustery, which I much prefer over hot and humid, and the crowd was minimal. Here’s one of the glitzy casinos along the Atlantic City Boardwalk. We’re not much into the gambling scene, but we strolled the whole boardwalk and it was fun just to see it all.

Cape May, NJ lighthouseWe then headed down to the southern tip of the peninsula to Cape May and a much quieter style of vacationing. A walk through this quaint town is like a time warp back to Victorian gentility. It’s filled with historic hotels and homes, all colorful and inviting like those you see in the top photo. Most of them are now B&Bs, restaurants or shops (stay tuned for when I write of our hotel later this week). I’d love to tour them all!

And being on the ocean? Well, for us Midwesterners, it was awesome!

Cape May, NJ

You can’t visit a lighthouse without climbing the tower. So, of course, we hiked the 199 cast iron steps to the top of the Cape May Lighthouse and looked down on the town below. We also checked out the Cape May Winery & Vineyard, one of several wineries in the area, and toured the Cape May Brewing Company. Both were super friendly, fun and tasty!

Chiconteague PonyOur last leg of the trip was a ferry ride across the Delaware Bay and road trip down to the Chincoteague and Assateague Islands in Virginia. Does anyone remember reading Misty of Chincoteague when you were young? I loved this book and the rest of Marguerite Henry’s series. Chincoteague. Assateague. The names themselves evoked intrigue in the heart of a horse-loving, adventure-dreaming girl!

As for pronouncing Chincoteague, have fun with that. We asked every local we came upon and each said it differently. Certainly none of their pronunciations were like the word appears or as this source suggests. If I recall, some said “SHIN-o-tay,” others said “Shin-co-TEE,” and locals referred to themselves as “tiggers.”

No matter how you say it, the Chincoteague National Wildlife Reserve is truly a treasure. Located on Assateague Island, its 14,000 acres of beach, dunes, and marshland are a natural habitat for waterfowl and an adapted haven for these special ponies. We walked for miles and miles.

So there you have it: An abbreviated rundown of our 2-week vacation. As I think of our travels and the thrill of seeing worlds different than our own, I’m once again reminded how enamored I am by the United States. And this Memorial Day, I’m thankful to those who’ve made living here possible.

God bless America!


Branding Rock County’s Breadbasket


Woot! Woot! Congratulations to Mike Reuter and his Rock County Historical Society (RCHS) team for their great work with Adunate in creating a logo for their upcoming marketing campaign. And so the branding begins!

Mike, who serves as executive director, contacted me a couple months ago regarding the society’s campaign called Breadbasket (I wrote about the society here). Breadbasket will be a yearlong traveling exhibit that chronicles Rock County’s culinary history. The exhibit will run from June 1, 2013 to June 1, 2014, and will target youth of all ages, families and underprivileged families. According to Mike, these audiences will benefit from Breadbasket’s following embedded themes:

  1. Seed to Spoon: Where Does Our Food Come From?
  2. Tasty Traditions: How Does Food Shape Who We Are?
  3. Our Food Future: Bleak or Bright?

Discussing the project with Mike was exciting. He comes to the RCHS with a great portfolio, having previously worked as the operations manager and curator for the Milwaukee County Historical Society. His plans for Breadbasket are to have large, sweeping, door-type displays, along with educational kiosks. The exhibit will be headquartered at the RCHS campus but will also travel to outlying historical societies.

Mike then put together an interesting team of a people, all individual from one another yet all related to Rock County. For more than an hour we discussed what the county means to them (I’ve developed a super effective process of opening up participant’s creative brains and guiding them through the necessary brainstorming). What a fun time! I learned so many appreciative qualities of this area of south central Wisconsin. I daresay the participants did too—open-minded thinking always gives people perspectives they didn’t have before.

One of the objectives for the Breadbasket logo is that it work both independently and together with the RCHS logo. Therefore, it needs to have its own identity, yet coordinate.

Here’s the RCHS logo.

Rock County Historical Society logo, Janesville, WisconsinThe logo is very befitting to the society; the icon replicates its Lincoln-Tallman House and the typeface represents the Craftsman-style of its other buildings.

We decided the red color that RCHS uses in all its visual communications would be the coordinating factor. Rather than choosing one or the other of the two eras represented in the RCHS logo, we went with a generalized advertising style that would have been common in the late 1800s to early 1900s, a time frame common inclusive of both eras.

Rock County Historical Society

Rock County’s food history is fascinating. Like much of Wisconsin, it evolved as a wheat-growing county in the mid-1800s to a dairy-producing county in the 1900s. Today it celebrates everything from large acreages of field corn, to specialized farmers markets, orchards and vineyards, all of which work together to make up Rock County’s enticing breadbasket of food.

So here you have it: RCHS’s own breadbasket of food! I’m anxious to see the Breadbasket displays and the great programs the RCHS puts together in the next year!




Wednesday Webs: National Women’s History Project

National Women's History ProjectUsed with permission, National Women’s History Project

In 1980, a  group of women convinced Congress that the females gender needed to be recognized more for their inspiring contributions to history.  We now celebrate March as National Women’s History Month and we honor women of diverse cultural, ethnic, occupational, racial, class, and regional backgrounds.

Here is some of the interesting media that’s popped up this month:

Happy National Women’s History Month! Tell us who inspires you?


Celebrating My Grandmother for Women’s History Month


Back in the 1930s, when the Great Depression made life rather difficult, my grandmother Gladys was a Coca-Cola girl. That’s her, sitting on the left. She’s holding a bottle opener and it was her job to install these in people’s homes.

Of course, this vintage advertising is fascinating. Isn’t it amazing how the Coca-Cola logo is still iconic today? And do you think these women could ever have imagined how collectable their work items would become—the bottle openers, the cases of soda, or, best of all, their dresses?

From a marketing perspective, this news clipping is cool and all, but what’s really special is how it represents my grandmother.

As we all know, jobs were hard to come by in the 1930s. My grandmother lived in Lansing, Mich., a city forged in the automobile industry. When the economy crashed, this town of blue-collar, everyday people was hit particularly hard. On top of that, Gladys had three young boys and an irresponsible husband. So when she could get a job like installing bottle openers, you can bet she darn well took it.

I’ve been thinking of my grandmother this month because it’s Women’s History Month. Every day the media showcases famous women like Eva Peron, Argentina’s advocating former First Lady; or Sally Ride, the first American woman in space; or Marissa Mayer, whose controversial leadership is dominating the news. But women like my grandmother—both my grandmothers, actually—are as laudable as any of them. My grandmothers steadfastly stood their ground and did whatever needed to be done to care for their family. They volunteered and contributed to society. They made the world a better place.

It’s so exciting to be a woman today. Our opportunities are monumental, thanks to those women before us. I’m not just talking about careers, although this bar certainly is higher. I’m talking about life as a whole. All of us, no matter what God-given role we embrace, are important in the overall scheme, and society today enables us to do our thing so much easier.

What’s your role right now? How is it different, compared to the same position held by women years ago? How do women today positively impact the future of others?