Small Business, Big Heart

Spend some dollars here on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and beyond and you’ll do good beyond the register.


Jen’s Sweet Treats owner Jennifer Clark with some of her biggest fans

We all know that Black Friday can do more than leave a dent in our wallets. With nearly 2 billion people doing at least some of their shopping via online retailers, and big-box retailers dropping their prices even lower to keep pace, locally owned and operated neighborhood businesses can get lost in the shuffle, even as they offer person-to-person customer service and unique and quality merchandise that you can pick up, taste, try on and know you truly love before you leave the store. Atop that, many local small businesses regularly donate time and funds to local, national and international charities. So why not check out the stores in your favorite neighborhoods this Black Friday and Small Business Saturday? You just might support good causes in the process. 

Here are five local businesses known for their giving and community involvement.

Photo courtesy of MOD GEN

MOD GEN (short for modern general store) is well known in the Historic Third Ward and beyond for its plethora of greenery, unique gifts and home goods, and owner Debra Kern has made charitable giving an integral part of her business model. “We’ve always had our hearts and efforts behind community programs,” says longtime store manager Doug McDonald. Try MOD GEN for a variety of houseplants and succulents, along with interesting books and cookbooks, and gift items such as candles, housewares and children’s toys. Each year, the business donates $2,000 to a specific local nonprofit organization. Past recipients have included environmental nonprofit Teens for Greens, the Mitchell Park Domes and Artists Working in Education (AWE). “Our giving in the community is pretty broad,” McDonald says. Community outreach is also a significant part of MOD GEN’s charitable giving programs. During the holiday season, staff members wear T-shirts bearing the select organization’s name and encourage store customers to donate to that organization. Last year, the business raised $7,000 for Teens for Greens. “We did a phenomenal job with them,” McDonald says. 211 N. Broadway St., Milwaukee; (414) 963-1657;

Mission Road Boutique. Photo by Julie Collins Photography

Mission Road Boutique
Fulfilling a longtime dream of combining her two passions — shopping and philanthropy — former Kansas City resident Kelly Oppold, along with her husband Stephen, opened Mission Road Boutique in Oconomowoc in February.

“I grew up in a home that was always focused on good works: reducing waste, helping others, and charitable giving,” Oppold says. Mission Road sells women’s clothing and accessories, baby items and housewares made by what Oppold considers to be “beneficent” companies.

Among Mission Road’s best-selling products are beanies by Love Your Melon, a company which donates 50 percent of its profits to help fight pediatric cancer. Oppold also loves clothing by Ivory Ella, an organization dedicated to elephant conservation, and SIPS cups made by an organization that builds wells in Uganda.

In addition to selling these items, Oppold also selects a different charity to support each month for her “Mission of the Month” program. “I love it when customers learn about Mission of the Month and make suggestions. It turns their cute downtown boutique into a cause they can be proud of,” Oppold smiles. 122 N. Main St., Oconomowoc; (262) 354-0544;

Fischberger’s Variety
Located in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood, Fischberger’s sells plenty of fun, quirky items for children and adults, including toys, old-fashioned candy, fair trade jewelry and even office supplies. The shop just celebrated its 13th anniversary.

“Remembering the Ben Franklin and Woolworth’s stores I loved as a kid, I thought that something like that could be good for our neighborhood too,” says owner Sarah Ditzenberger. Fischberger’s is happy to help the community it serves. Ditzenberger said she regularly supports fundraisers for area schools, and each Black Friday the shop donates a portion of its sales to a charity. “We are always happy to donate to any local fundraiser, and — in all seriousness — try to follow the words of Christ, ‘Give to everyone who asks of you without question,’” Ditzenberger adds. 2445 N. Holton St., Milwaukee; (414) 263-1991;

Jen’s Sweet Treats
Jen’s Sweet Treats owner Jennifer Clark is widely known in her community, and — thanks in part to local news segments — throughout Southeastern Wisconsin, for her generosity.

Photo courtesy of Halo Artisan Skin Care

“I was taught growing up that if you can help someone, help them,” says Clark, who opened her Cudahy bakery in 2014.

Some notable causes her business supports have included the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight (“We love and support our veterans,” Clark says), Children’s Hospital and first responders and law enforcement officers. In June, Clark and her bakery raised more than $10,000 to benefit the families of fallen Racine police officer John Hetland and Milwaukee police officer Kou Her. Hetland died June 17 from a gunshot wound sustained during a robbery and Her was killed in a car crash in Milwaukee June 18. On July 25, Jen’s Sweet Treats held a fundraiser from which 100 percent of her bakery sales that day were donated to a scholarship honoring Michael Michalski, a Cudahy resident and Milwaukee police officer who was killed in the line of duty in July 2018. The Cudahy bakery owner also regularly delivers baked goodies to firefighters in the Metro Milwaukee area.“We support the men and women who help keep us safe,” Clark said. “We are just a small-town bakery, making a difference one cupcake at a time.” 4745 S. Packard Ave., Cudahy;(414) 940-0725;

Halo Artisan Skin Care
Stacie Cherubini, owner of Halo Artisan Skin Care, has a special connection to Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood. In 2013, she relocated her shop from Cudahy to her current Kinnickinnic Avenue location.

“I first wanted to move to Bay View because my family has lived [in the neighborhood] for 80-plus years,” she says. Halo offers natural soaps, bath and beauty products, candles and skin care products.

Each year, Halo participates in Good Karma Friday, a movement held the same day as Black Friday in which small businesses donate a portion of their sales to charity. “We choose an animal shelter/adoption nonprofit every year,” Cherubini said.

With the help of another neighborhood business owner and the Bay View Neighborhood Association, Cherubini also organizes Christmas on KK, an annual Bay View holiday celebration featuring shopping, a tree-lighting ceremony and caroling. Proceeds from the event benefit the Bay View Community Center. 2227 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., Milwaukee; (414) 810-7627; MKE