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Downtown businesses cope with outages on first day of Maxwell Street Days

MADISON (WKOW) — Maxwell Street Days typically marks one of the busiest shopping seasons in the State St. area and for ice cream and chocolate shop Kilwins, all the ingredients were there for record sales.

It was the hottest day of the year and the kickoff to one of the busiest downtown events, but by 8:15 Friday morning, owner Curtis Diller said those perfect conditions began to melt before their eyes.

The shop on the 200 block of State St. was one of the thousands of MG&E customers without power Friday after the explosion and fires at the Madison substations.

Diller said their first priority was keeping their product cool so they kept their freezers closed and rented a generator as soon as they could.

“We were happy to see them pull up with it this morning,” he said. “We finally got ourselves running with air conditioning by about 2:30.”

That was six hours after the outage began so Diller said they had to check their products immediately to see what couldn’t make it.

“We’re gonna have to scrape the soft part out and hopefully the ice cream underneath is in good shape,” he said as he looked through the tubs.

By about 3:00 p.m. they were back in the ice cream business, Diller didn’t know yet how much product was lost.

Still, Diller said his staff never stopped working.

“The doors were open, and it was dark inside and we couldn’t do any cash registers or anything,” he said. “But if someone came in and needed something we were happy to try and get it for them and work it out.”

Diller said the staff effort kept him motivated until the lights came back.

“I was pulling my hair out because we were going to lose product but they got out, got the canopy going and we sold some caramel corn, caramel apples and we started giving out fudge samples to everyone walking by,” he said.

Kilwins wasn’t the only State St. business feeling the impact of the city emergency. Little Luxuries manager Dawn Roth said they were fortunate enough to keep their power on but with few crowds downtown for most of the day, it wasn’t the start to Maxwell Street Days she or any other businesses were hoping for.

“We were prepared for the heat but not the emergency events that were happening,” she said.

Roth said many of the downtown businesses count on events like Maxwell Street Days to get them through the slower months ahead.

“This is basically Christmas in July for the businesses downtown,” she said.

That’s why Roth and Diller and both hoping things sweeten up on Saturday.

“We can make up for it hopefully,” Diller said.

Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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