Saturday, October 25, 2014

Our Town America
by Jessica Tighe

Lauren Tatum was born and bred in Milwaukee, but she recently moved to West Allis with her little one. Her new neighbors are a friendly bunch, but it's not like the old days when you might be welcomed with warm cookies. She did get a welcome package though. It came in the mail from an organization called Our Town America.

"When I first saw it I thought oh, junk mail! But then I did go ahead and open it up and I saw these different coupons and thought wow, what a really great organization. This is really nice," Tatum explains.

Tatum got gift certificates for a free massage, a free pizza and a whole lot more. They were all from companies right around her house. The package welcomed her to the neighborhood and also helped her learn about her surroundings.

"Anybody from Milwaukee will tell you, if you're from the North side, you don't know the South side. So I didn't know the names of streets. I didn't know what kinds of businesses were around here. So getting the package from Our Town America really helped. It was like oh, I get an oil change over there or go to dinner over here," she says.

That's one of the reasons why business owner Linda Carlson got involved in Our Town America. She and her husband have three Sport Clips locations in the Milwaukee area.

"We just want to be able to reach out and welcome people because we know it's a scary think when you first move to a community and you're not familiar with where do I get my haircut, where do I go shopping, where do I get my prescription, things like that," Carlson says.

Sport Clips puts certificates for a free MVP haircut in the welcome packets. New movers get a fresh cut, a hot steam towel and a mini massage.

"I call it a little bit of male pampering," Carlson says with a smile.

It's a nice little housewarming gift for the new movers that's also bringing in new customers to local businesses. The owner of the West Allis Schlotzsky's also contributes. She gives an entire meal.

"People move and their refrigerators are empty and they don't know where to go. They're new to town and they say, thank you, it's a relief and it's nice to take a break," Jane Ritenour explains.

That interaction helps Ritenour make a connection with the new movers and hopefully establish life-long customers. Not only does Ritenour work in West Allis, she lives there as well. These are her neighbors too.

"It's a great way for the community to get to know local business owners to get to know the nice areas in town where you can go enjoy yourself- entertainment, food, etc. Our Town America helps Milwaukee put a good foot forward," Ritenour says.

The welcome packets go out every month are targeted by zip code.