Local business owner inspires artists

Grace Olson

Left, Jamie Kyser and Erin Klaus use their shop Tangled up in Hue to promote local artists. Courtesy of Erin Klaus 2019.

By Grace Olson

On a brisk fall day walking through downtown Eau Claire, many shops line the streets. At 505 Barstow St. a vibrant welcome sign reading “Tangled up in Hue, Support Local Art” greets locals passing by. Stepping in, warm air and the smell of homemade candles welcomes in guests.

Owner Erin Klaus explains Tangled is an art collective supportive of over 150 local artists. “We do screen printing, we make candles, jewelry: we do little bit of everything.”

The store has almost all handmade art which includes work from Blue Boxer Arts, another Barstow business, owned by Jamie Kyser, Klaus’s co-partner.

Downtown is enjoyed by many Eau Claire locals but, 10 years ago this was not the case Klaus says.

“The downtown was struggling; it was basically a ghost town,” Klaus said. “Very many vacancies- not much down here other than bars and few maybe law offices or businesses.”

Klaus has always been a creative person at heart. At 18 she went into business with Kyser. Kyser was just 19 and managing a jewelry kiosk in Oakwood mall when she got the opportunity to buy the kiosk from the owners.

“I worked for her throughout college,” says Klaus. She then went to grad school in Tucson, Arizona, and ended up moving back to Eau Claire. Kyser was then ready to sell her business and Klaus was ready to buy.

“Within six months we decided we wanted to go back into business together downtown,” Klaus says. Inspired by all of the artwork in downtown Tucson, Klaus new she wanted something similar here in Eau Claire. “The garbage cans were art, I was at a car shop and they had local art hanging up, it was just very art friendly.”

Both Klaus and Kyser are grateful for the experience the mall gave them, but they knew they wanted something with a “downtown vibe,” Kyser said. They opened during a recession followed by many years of downtown construction. But through it all they remained optimistic and now own a successful business that inspires local artists.

“Working with Erin has been amazing,” says Alicia Hash, a local artist who creates abstract art.

Very helpful not only with items I bring to their shop but telling me about local opportunities for my artwork.”

Hash now has her own Etsy shop and thanks Tangled for the opportunity. “It is an amazing hub for local artists and makers to get their work out there and be more involved with the community.”

Klaus says, “A lot of businesses say that one of the reasons they were willing to try it down here was because of shops like ours being open. You really do need something like this to anchor a downtown to feel vibrant and then it encourages other people to try stuff.”

Because of the work she has done many other small business owners have worked up the courage to open a business in downtown Eau Claire. Luckily for local artists, Klaus and Kyser are always willing to help.

“We do a lot of freelance consulting for young entrepreneurs or new entrepreneurs and artists too which is cool because I think it takes the right person to be an entrepreneur. You have to be stupidly optimistic and have an incredibly hard work ethic,” says Klaus.

Kyser and Klaus have taken on the role of mentors for many local artists.

Amy Schmitz, owner of Amy’s Custom Designs explains how Klaus has inspired her, “Erin is inspiring and she’s an amazing mentor. I’ve always looked up to her as a strong female entrepreneur and for business advice.” Schmitz sells at Tangled often and has pop-up succulent workshops of her own.

Since opening the store, Klaus has had to take on more of an administrative role. She explains she has been part of the South Barstow Business Improvement District for the last eight years and is now the president.

“I’ve got to learn a lot more of the inner workings of this city and how important business is,” Klaus says. “It’s really eye opening to see major strides the city took in the last 10 years.”

“I can’t imagine doing anything else,” says Klaus, reflecting on how far her own community has come in supporting local art.