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Baraboo Children's Museum

The view inside Baraboo Children's Museum, from the bow of a ship, shows a train and barn already under construction. Co-founder Jed Crouse said the facility may open this fall.

After a few months of uncertainty, the Baraboo Children’s Museum will get to remain in an east-side building its founders hope will become its permanent home.

An anonymous group has bought the former Darrow’s grocery building from Terry Stieve and will rent half of it to the museum. Founders Jed and Traci Crouse are working to set an opening date, possibly this fall.

“We went from a lot of nothing to full speed ahead,” Jed Crouse said.

Late last year they moved the museum to the Eighth Street complex called Badger Ridge, sharing it with Elite Twisters Gymnastics. They had hoped to open this spring after getting exhibits set up, but a snag temporarily delayed progress. It appeared for a time the museum would have to move.

Stieve said his lender balked at the estimated $43,000 cost of building improvements needed, such as retrofitting the heating and air conditioning system.

“They have to approve what I do,” Stieve said. “We would’ve liked to work with them, but I can’t afford to take a risk like that. I hope they do great.”

Like Stieve, the new owners have contracted with Real Estate Management Solutions to manage the property. Brad Jenks of REMS declined to name the new owners, but said they’re local investors who formed an LLC to buy the building and help the museum blossom.

“That’s always been the purpose, to get them in there,” Jenks said. “They like the idea, what’s being done there.”

The transfer earlier this month allowed the Crouses to stop looking for a new location, and resume their efforts setting up the museum at Badger Ridge.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” Jed Crouse said.

The museum will serve children ranging from infancy to age 12 with interactive exhibits teaching practical lessons through play. Last fall it occupied a Fourth Street building as one of Downtown Baraboo Inc.’s holiday season pop-up shops.

Now it will resume renting 90,000 square feet at Badger Ridge, which had been vacant since Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore moved out five years ago.

“I think it’s going to be a good thing for everyone involved,” Jenks said.

The Crouses hope daily admission fees eventually will cover the bulk of operational costs, but they’re also seeking donor support. A “share night” fundraiser will be held June 3 at Culver’s.

“This is something that’s good for Baraboo,” Crouse said. “It just takes time.”

Follow Ben Bromley on Twitter @ben_bromley or call him at 745-3507.

Baraboo News Republic Senior Reporter

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