Biz Buzz: New boutique in downtown Dubuque, pet business expands and longtime Maquoketa company to close

Amanda Kaiser owns AJ’s Boutique at 129 Main St. in Dubuque. The new business sells dresses, shirts, sweaters, pants and a wide variety of accessories geared toward women, in sizes ranging from extra small to 3XL. PHOTO CREDIT: JESSICA REILLY

Biz Buzz shares business tidbits from around the tri-state area. This week, we highlight developments in Dubuque and Maquoketa, Iowa.

A new retail store in downtown Dubuque offers clothing aimed at appealing to all women.

AJ’s Boutique opened its doors at 129 Main St. in mid-November, according to owner Amanda Kaiser.

The business sells dresses, shirts, sweaters, pants and a wide variety of accessories geared toward women, Kaiser said. Sizes range from extra small to 3XL.

“I wanted to have a place where, whatever size you were, you could come in, find something and feel good about yourself in it,” said Kaiser.

AJ’s Boutique occupies a storefront that long housed Knippel’s Religious Goods, a store that moved to 129 Main St. in 1969 and remained there for roughly five decades.

Kaiser believes her store will add a new element to the Lower Main District, which is populated mostly by bars and restaurants.

In addition to clothing, AJ’s Boutique offers accessories such as hats and jewelry, and a modest collection of home décor. Kaiser eventually hopes to introduce clothing for men and children, as well as other items, such as furniture.

Kaiser acknowledged she is “taking a risk” by opening the business, but she decided to make the leap after feeling unfulfilled at her previous, corporate job.

“This past year has put things in perspective,” she said. “I realized life is too short to not do something you love. When I am here, it doesn’t feel like work.”

AJ’s Boutique is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 3 p.m. on Sunday. Customers also can purchase items by visiting shopajsboutique.com.

PET STORE TO EXPAND

A Dubuque business specializing in pet care and products will soon undertake a major expansion by making only a short move.

Kellie Droessler, owner of Wags 2 Wiggles, said the business will open a new, expanded location at 1838 Central Ave. in early January. That space remains occupied by Upcycle Dubuque, a creative reuse center and art gallery that plans to close this month.

Droessler noted that the new location is just a few storefronts down from the existing one, presenting an ideal scenario for her growing business.

“We knew we needed to expand, but we didn’t want to leave the block. We wanted to stay down here,” she said. “It is sad to see Upcycle Dubuque leave, but the space works great for us.”

Wags 2 Wiggles opened in December 2019, originally focusing primarily on the sale of pet supplies. It later introduced grooming services, which are now provided to more than 300 clients.

“We have completely changed our business model since opening,” Droessler said.

The new space, which will offer roughly twice the square-footage as the existing one, will allow Droessler to vastly expand grooming capacity and hire another full-time groomer, bringing her total employment to four workers.

Wags 2 Wiggles will also introduce “day boarding” for dogs. Droessler emphasized that these pets will get one-on-one time with staff members and won’t be intermingled with other pets.

Wags 2 Wiggles will remain open at its current location through Christmas Eve. It will then close for a few weeks while the new location is set up.

Droessler anticipates opening the new storefront in the second week of January. Wags 2 Wiggles can be reached at 563-663-2411.

SANITATION BUSINESS TO CLOSE

After serving local customers for over six decades, a Maquoketa-based sanitation business will soon cease operations.

Rockwell Clean-Up will close on Dec. 31, according to co-owner Cecil Rockwell. He said the decision was prompted by an illness in the family.

“It is tough,” he said. “I’ve been doing it for so long, and quite a few of these customers have been with us for a lot of years.”

Cecil’s father, Ronald “Rocky” Rockwell, started the business in 1956. Cecil came into the family business in 1979 and now co-owns it with his brother, Jeff.

Rockwell Clean-Up picked up garbage for a mix of residential and business customers. Its garbage routes served clients in Maquoketa, Baldwin and Spragueville, Cecil said.

Reflecting on the longevity of the operation, Cecil emphasized that the business stayed viable by keeping things simple.

“We kept our customers because we always kept our word with them,” he said. “Our business grew through word-of-mouth.”

Rockwell Clean-Up is located at 5533 Hurstville Road. It can be reached at 563-652-5052.

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