The holiday season means different things to different people. For some, it’s wrapped in nostalgia and family; for others, it’s a joyful outward expression of religious beliefs. One of the universal hallmarks of the upcoming holidays, however, is the spirit of giving.
Across Madison, local business owners embrace the spirit of the holidays throughout the year by rallying behind different causes—some that hit close to home and others that impact customers. Regardless of the specific benefactor, the local shopkeepers interviewed for this story say a motivator in their gestures is their love of Madison and the people that call the capital city home.
Co-owners Laura and Sachi Komai’s store is in the heart of Madison. The siblings, who grew up in the community, say they are invested in Madison, and that commitment extends beyond the walls of their store that sells homemade goods, craft kits, and similar items. Giving back, says Laura, is an extension of the philosophy she and Sachi created when they first opened their shop doors a decade ago.
“The mission of Anthology is to facilitate creativity, so we focus our giving to correspond with that mission,” Laura says. “As lifelong residents of Madison, we emphasize paying forward to the community the ways that our creativity was fostered.”
One organization near and dear to Laura and Sachi’s hearts is the Foundation for Madison Public Schools. While the city’s public school district is largely sustained through taxpayer dollars, the foundation has long served as a volunteer-driven organization that provides funding and resources for programs the general operating budget cannot sustain.
Laura says she and Sachi were encouraged to embrace their creativity at Madison’s schools from an early age—first at Crestwood Elementary School and, subsequently, at Jefferson Middle School. Laura and Sachi graduated from Memorial and West High Schools, respectively. “We are so grateful to all the ways that our public school art teachers provided opportunities for creative growth,” Laura says.
The foundation is one of multiple creativity-themed organizations the sisters provide muscle to through Anthology. In the past, they also have donated time, talent, and money to the Claire Aubrey Roberts Scholarship Fund at the Monroe Street Fine Arts Center, Madison Public Library Foundation, Art Cart of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, and an assortment of neighborhood-based organizations.
The recipient organizations are disparate in scope, and, in some instances, have different target audiences in mind, but Laura says they all share the common bond of encouraging people to tap into the imaginations and sense of self-expression. “We think it’s critical for our well-being to create,” Laura says. “There are a zillion different ways to express creativity.”
Luceo Boutique and Styling Co.
In July, Katie McKenzie reached a meaningful milestone any entrepreneur relishes—the one-year anniversary. Since she opened the doors to her contemporary, trendy apparel and accessories shop in Middleton, Katie says she wanted to find ways of giving back to the community.
In fall 2017, months after Luceo began, Katie says she decided to lend her support to the annual fashion show benefiting Madison-based Domestic Abuse Intervention Service, more commonly known as DAIS. The organization provides a wealth of resources to survivors of domestic abuse.
The fashion theme fit hand-in-glove into Katie’s business and area of expertise, but the entrepreneur says she also wanted to do what she could to support a serious cause. She played a role in selecting some of the fashion pieces featured in the show. “It’s such a great event,” Katie says of the annual DAIS fashion shows, which have netted around $50,000 in donations to support victims. “It sheds light on such a horrible thing.”
Katie also used the inaugural year of her business to support a similar fun fundraiser event—Wine Women and Shoes. Proceeds benefit breast cancer research and care at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center. Luceo has also been a fashion vendor at the Wine Women and Shoes events. From her vantage point, Katie says she was happy to help provide a deeper understanding of a cause that impacts people from all walks of life. “Cancer touches everybody,” Katie says. “Even though my part is so small, it just feels good to help in some way.”
As she goes full steam ahead into year two of her business, Katie says she is consistently on the lookout for future opportunities to give back to the community and, when possible, provide her expertise. “I’m always looking for these different kinds of opportunities,” Katie says. “There are a lot of good events in this community, and there will be more that I will be a part of in the future.”
The Diamond Center
Its roots were first laid in Janesville 30 years ago, but then The Diamond Center became part of the Madison community 15 years ago when it opened a second location. Steve Yeko Jr., co-owner and vice president of the local jewelry operation, says philanthropy is an important part of the company’s business plan. “We like to help out our customers in any way we can,” Steve says. “We’ve had different customers come in—many who have been with us a long time—and we’ve been able to help raise money for different causes.”
The customers’ needs over the years have varied, ranging from medical expenses to specific charitable events. Regardless of the specificity, Steve says he wants to do his part in ensuring clientele live happy, fruitful lives—and the gesture extends beyond the glistening beauty of a piece of jewelry.
The Diamond Center also historically has supported a number of nonprofit organizations, including local YMCA branches and the nonprofit medical care provider Mercy Health. Alex Mootz, who serves as project manager at The Diamond Center, says giving back provides its own reward. But he also says the figurative lending of a hand makes an overall community’s ecosystem stronger in a big-picture sense. “We want to help out local businesses so they, in turn, can help us,” Alex says. “But any time you donate or support a local organization, you get something out of it.”
Dave Fidlin is a freelance writer who has a special affinity for Madison. Dave’s career spans nearly 20 years, and he’s grateful for the opportunity to learn something new each day through his professional pursuits.
230 State Street
Madison, WI 53703
The Diamond Center
509 S. Gammon Road
Madison, WI 53719
Luceo Boutique & Styling Co.
6733 Frank Lloyd
Middleton, WI 53562