How investing in itself led to Orfordville's downtown revitalization


There's a notion that lot of smaller towns are fading away. That's not the case in Orfordville, Wisconsin. In fact, the village board president is showing off how the community is thriving. That wasn't always the case though. In the latest edition of Brady Meets Wisconsin, we're showing you how investing in itself is helping Orfordville grow.

A building is more than a pile of bricks. For Molly Phillips, hers is a place to call her own. Inside, you'll find her store Molly's Creations. It's a shop on the main drag of Orfordville that sells antiques, local products, and more.

"Makes me feel kind of proud," Molly said.

She wears that pride on her sleeve. Actually, she wears it on her hat. Molly was wearing a hat with the caption, "Small Town Proud."

"I think small towns have a lot more than people realize," Molly said.

Molly and her husband, Gary Phillips, find that to be true about their home for the last decade: Orfordville, Wisconsin. In downtown, the streets are lined with local businesses.

"Right on the corner here is Guzman's Taqueria, and they probably have the best tacos in the country," Gary said. "Across the street there's the Sassy Farm Chicks... That little one right next to Molly's Creations is Sapphire Hair Studio."

It wasn't always this way. In fact, quite the opposite with the Phillips moved to Orfordville.

"When I first moved to town, there were two stores downtown," Gary said.

Gary decided to do something about it when he saw a broken window. Even through the cracks of the shattered glass, he could clearly see a better future for Orfordville. That's why ran for a seat on the village board, and is now board president.

Brady: "A broken window led to all this?"

Gary: "(laughs) Yeah. Basically. We get carried away every once in a while."

Through the Economic Development Committee, Orfordville revived itself. Over the years, members obtained several small business grants from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. That paved the way to spruce things up downtown, bring in the businesses you see, and plan for more construction and growth in the future.

Brady: "Does it make you emotional to see how far this place has come?"

Gary: "Huh...yeah...ummm. You look at the pictures from five years ago and then you look at what we have now. It's definitely a lot different looking village than what we had before."

The Phillips say Orfordville's ample returns are proof of what happens when community members invest in where they live.

"If everybody could just pitch in a few hours a month or, I'd be happy with a few hours a year. You know, a village this size needs volunteers," Gary said.

"I like the atmosphere. How people know everyone and help each other out. It's just a nice place to be," Molly said.

Orfordville, Wisconsin, is much more than just a pile of bricks. All it took was a group of people to lay the foundation.

"The little towns have such, you know, things to offer and the atmosphere that, you know, people can come to. But we need them to keep coming here to keep all those little businesses going," Molly said.

"It's just good community- building when you can work together, laugh, and have a good time doing it," Gary said.

Gary says plans for new construction include a building with 11 apartments and a store front in downtown Orfordville.