After more than two decades of sending customers out the door with new treasures, a downtown Baraboo toy store owner walked off with one of his own Tuesday.
During this week’s City Council meeting, Mayor Mike Palm presented Todd Wickus with the Gem Award, given to residents who make Baraboo a more prosperous place to live.
Mimicking the tagline Wickus employs when answering the phone at his Fourth Avenue store, Palm declared, “It’s Your Favorite Toy Store Day in Baraboo.”
Wickus opened Just Imagine Toy Store in 1994. Downtown anchors such as Woolworth’s and Dorf’s clothing store had closed, and JCPenney had moved to West Baraboo. In the summer, Wickus would move his desk to the sidewalk in front of the store to show it was open. “It was pretty quiet downtown,” he said.
He credited fellow merchant Jerry McCammond with reviving the Downtown Baraboo Inc. business group and revitalizing commerce around the courthouse square. “That was a very important move. That really helped everybody downtown,” Wickus said. “It has changed a lot over the years, and it has changed thanks to a lot of people, not just myself.”
Wickus went on to serve as DBI president for a decade. He also has served as vice president of the Business Improvement District for several years. These groups helped create a Downtown Baraboo Historic District and successfully lobbied for a new state law allowing wine walks.
“Todd truly believes that a vibrant downtown business district is a key component to a happy and healthy community, providing economic benefits for our city in addition to a higher quality of life for our residents,” Palm said in reading a proclamation honoring Wickus.
The honoree said cooperation among DBI, the city and the Baraboo Area Chamber of Commerce has been critical to the blossoming of his store and others in the city core. “Downtown is the heart of the city,” Wickus said. “If the heart’s healthy, it helps the city to be healthy, too.”