By Judith Munson —
With coffee can in hand, Mary Jo Wilbur started a life caring about others. At the urging of her dad she ran around the neighborhood for days as a kid collecting money for the Jerry Lewis Telethon.
“And there I was—on TV with my coffee can,” laughs Wilbur. “My dad was always instilling in us the importance of helping others.”
Wilbur grew up in a family with a stay-at-home mom and attended a private school. Her dad mowed lawns for a living. “I don’t know how he did it,” she says. “I definitely got my work ethic from him.”
Hard work and helping others are traditions Wilbur has handed down to her five children. “When they were young, we would hand out cups of coffee and hot chocolate to the homeless on Christmas Eve. My son Colton started a charity making prayer blankets for families who lost a child. He was eight.”
After years of cleaning houses, Wilbur is now living her dream by creating a life out of giving back with her business, the Rootin’Crown, which opened in La Crosse at 1906 Ward Ave. in October 2017. She opened a satellite hub in Onalaska
at 925 13th Ave. S. at the start of 2019 and is celebrating the grand opening of another location in Holmen at 916 Western Ave.
The Rootin’Crown is a consignment-based store with a twist. People who bring in items choose a local charity to donate the proceeds to, and each item is clearly labeled as belonging to that charity. Up to 40 percent of the proceeds goes to the chosen nonprofit.
A labor of love just begins to describe Wilbur’s dedication to this mission, as she sold her home for seed money and is living in a camper while her dream takes root in the community. “I wanted my work to mean something, so that’s why I’m doing this.”
There are more than 30 nonprofits that benefit from donations and shopping at the Rootin’Crown. “We have five categories of nonprofits,” says Wilbur. “Education, health, community, churches and animals.”
So, let’s say you’ve always wanted to do more to help an animal shelter, school or other local charity, but, like so many of us, you don’t have the time. The Rootin’Crown is an easy way to contribute, either by donating goods or shopping.
The stores have a wide variety of clothing, featuring several styles for all ages, as well as household items and furniture. They love donations from the garage and shed. “Also, as a licensed realtor, I am able to sell homes that can be donated to one of our registered organizations, along with estates.”
Now that their Holmen store is opening, they have a lot more room for big pieces of furniture and other large items. “Someone brought in several brand-new airlift desks for Wafer, and they were gone right away. If there are retailers with overstock lots they can’t hang on to anymore, we’ll take them off their hands.”
She says customers love having the opportunity to choose what nonprofit their goods or shopping dollars will support. “There’s really no other place like it around here.”
Another reason Wilbur opened the business was so she and her mom could spend more time together. “She’s 74, a breast cancer survivor and works almost as much as me. We love hanging out together.”
Traffic is good and donations are coming in, but Wilbur needs more volunteers to run the shops so she can dedicate time to growing the business.
“We could do so much more for our nonprofits if we have more people signing up to help. I really need to start pulling myself away to work on marketing, corporate sponsors and grants to continue our mission.”
She’s established a sliding scale to encourage people to start volunteering or volunteer more hours. The percentage a nonprofit receives will increase the more volunteer hours it gets. “It’s a win-win for everyone,” says Wilbur.
The Rootin’Crown also gives back by continuing her son Colton’s tradition. He’s grown up now, serving in the Army, but his mom’s business supports a family every quarter who’s lost a child. “Recently we’ve supported the family of Jaden Stalsberg, the Sparta boy who tragically drowned, and the Bushek family, who lost their mom.”
The Rootin’Crown is open Mondays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays are “Senior Day” with 15 percent off the entire purchase for ages 55 and over. Fridays are “Favy Friday” during which select items are 50 percent off.
For more information, visit www.rootincrown.com. To volunteer, contact Mary Jo Wilbur at (608) 519-9500.