Biz Buzz: Auto business changes hands; photographer expands into Dubuque; hemp store opens in mall

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Biz Buzz shares business tidbits from around the tri-states. In this week’s edition, we feature developments in Dubuque and East Dubuque, Ill.

A married couple has taken the reins at an East Dubuque auto repair shop, ushering in a new chapter for a business that has served the community for nearly a half-century.

Luke and Emma Steele became owners of Sheehan Auto, 395 Desoto Ave., on Nov. 1. For Luke, it didn’t take long to grasp the important role the business has long played for area residents.

“There are a lot of people who have come in and said, ‘I’ve been taking my car to this shop for my whole life’,” Luke said.

The husband-and-wife duo bought the business from longtime owners Dan and Donna Sheehan.

The business was started by Dan’s brother 45 years ago. Dan joined as a partner shortly thereafter and later bought out his brother’s portion of the business. His wife, Donna, has long served as co-owner beside her husband.

She emphasized that the couple “loved their work and their customers” but had simply reached the age when retirement made sense.

“We didn’t want it to close,” she said. “When (the Steeles) came along and bought it, we were so glad.”

Recognizing the previous owners’ impact, the Steeles chose to keep the “Sheehan” name as the company’s moniker.

Luke grew up on a farm and began working on agricultural equipment at a young age. He studied automotive servicing in school and further honed his skills with on-the-job experience. He said he is ready to put these skills to use at Sheehan Auto.

“We do just about everything, from brakes to engine diagnostics,” he said.

Luke and Emma believe their complementary skill sets will be an asset to the business. Emma said she primarily will work in the office, while Luke will focus on the shop.

An employee who worked under the previous owner, Bob Spoerl, has remained on the staff as the new owners take the helm. Spoerl specializes in working on starters and alternators, which has long been a trademark of the business.

Sheehan Auto is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. It can be reached at 815-747-6110.


A photographer based in northwest Illinois is branching out with a new office in Dubuque’s Millwork District.

Amy May Photography, which operates a studio in Stockton, Ill., recently opened a location at 900 Jackson St. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at the new space today.

For owner Amy Laskye, the roots of the business extend all the way back to her childhood.

“I have had a camera in my hand since middle school,” she said. “I have always enjoyed taking pictures and creating art. I am still fascinated by it.”

Laskye’s career path initially went in a different direction. She studied microbiology in college and went on to become a quality manager at a large candy-making company.

She launched her photography business as a side job about six years ago. In 2017, she committed to the business full time.

Amy May Photography offers everything from family photo shoots to business photography. Laskye believes the latter component of her business will blossom in Dubuque.

“People in Dubuque are very welcoming,” she said. “There are plenty of opportunities for networking, and that kind of collaboration doesn’t always happen in smaller communities.”

Her new office in Schmid Innovation Center provides a home base for Laskye when she works in Dubuque, as well as a spot to meet with clients. The Stockton studio will remain in operation.

Amy May Photography can be reached at 815-238-6648.


An herbal hemp business has moved into a new Dubuque location and soon will open an additional store in southwest Wisconsin.

Botanicanna opened a storefront in the Kennedy Mall in the first week of November. The business previously operated at 3430 Dodge St.

Co-owner Ashlee Bainbridge believes the move will benefit both the mall and her business.

“They have been trying to bring in more small businesses and revamp the mall,” she said. “We were trying to find a space that is more visible, and I think we’ve done that. We instantly noticed that there is high foot traffic here.”

The Dubuque store sells cannabidiol — or CBD — in edible and topical forms, as well as a liquid form known as tinctures. The location also sells hemp apparel and glass accessories.

The origins of Botanicanna date back to 2018, when Bainbridge and her husband, Jake, started a hemp farm in Darlington, Wis. They launched their first storefront in Galena, Ill., in 2019.

Today, the company is on the cusp of establishing a presence in three states.

Bainbridge said a third Botanicanna facility will open later this week in Platteville, Wis. This location, at 305 E. Business U.S. 151, will serve as both a retail store and manufacturing facility, where employees will produce a wide variety of hemp products.

The Kennedy Mall store is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. The store can be reached at 563-239-9210.

The Platteville store will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days per week and can be reached at 608-348-2332.