First Supply offers jobs to some Wettstein’s employees, wants to continue family culture

Following the announcement that Wettstein’s in downtown La Crosse will close its doors, one of the companies buying a portion of the business’s assets said it hopes to carry on part of the legacy.

Gerhard’s Kitchen and Bath Store by First Supply has bought Wettstein’s lighting portion of the business and is inviting the employees to come along. By doing so, they hope to not only bring their expertise but part of that small-business feel.

First Supply in La Crosse is a fifth-generation family-owned business, opening after chairman Joe Poehling’s ancestors settled in the area.

‘We’ve been around just a few years now, 160-some years,” Poehling said.

It’s because of this history that he hopes to bring Wettstein’s culture of a family- owned business into his own.

“We think it’s a good marriage and we’re excited about being able to meld the two together,” Poehling said.

That includes bringing on some of Wettstein’s employees. There are 35 full and part-time total staff members, but First Supply has offered those in the lighting division employment at will.

“They’d be more than welcome and we’d be excited to have them as part of our family,” Poehling said.

Longtime area resident Reed Welch said it’s unfortunate to see a family-owned business go– especially since his brother owns a store downtown too.

“Shop local is what I’ve done my entire life. So to see Wettstein’s go out which has been here for 60-plus years, was it? It’s kind of a shock to the system,” Welch said.

He’s hopeful that another small business could enter the space, not something like a big box store.

“Something that can serve the community and the downtown well with all the development that’s been going around out here,” Welch said.

Wettstein’s has not publicly announced who has bought the physical property. Online records from the city of La Crosse show the total assessed value for Wettstein’s property is valued at $698,600.

First Supply said the purchase of the lighting will not affect regular business hours. The company will remain open as they bring in the new inventory.