Rachel Olson – Viroqua Public Market

So, what’s your story?

I was born and raised right here in Viroqua, WI. I have lived here most of my life, besides about a decade in La Crosse when I was in college. My husband and I moved back to help with the family business. I stay because of my family and the store and because I don’t want to live anywhere else.


Tell us about work or your business, and how long have you been doing this?

We have been in business for almost 20 years now. We run the indoor market in Viroqua, which houses about 100 vendors from the area.


Tell us about a project or accomplishment with your business.

I started my own Delta 8 business single-handedly inside our market. It is now thriving!

Tell us about one person who stands apart or has influenced you while here in the Driftless.

One of my favorite people is Karen Innis. She is a Realtor and also an artist who does custom framing in our store. She shares many of my similar beliefs and values, and we get along very well. She never stops working, and she is just awesome.


What do you wish other people knew about you or your business?

I wish more people knew how low our rent is! It only starts at $5 a month!


How would you describe yourself?

First and foremost, I would describe myself as bookworm. I love books and always have! I am also half Filipino and half Jewish and I take a lot of pride in both of my cultures. I am an introvert who would like to be an extrovert- for example; I love to plan parties but once they start, I always want to leave. I love treating all people and animals with kindness. My husband and I are both vegans. We have been married for 12 years and have two cats and zero kids.


What is your biggest accomplishment?

My biggest accomplishment is single-handed running our family business and making it a success with no help. My sister left the business about 8 years ago and I have been running it solo ever since.


Have you read any good books?

As I mentioned before, I am a dedicated bookworm and I can’t really imagine going even one day without reading. Either I am listening to true crime books on Audible (I just finished Precious Victims, which examines a case of a mother killing two of her infant daughters) or reading books on my Kindle. Right now I’m reading Rachel Hawkins’s new release, The Villa.


Who is your personal hero?

My personal hero is my late grandmother, who was a writer and a historian. Her passion was the Holocaust and she studied it day and night, finally publishing her second book, a collection of stories about the Holocaust, entitled Holocaust Mosaic, about a year before she passed away. She was the best person I’ve ever known.


Do you have a life philosophy that you live by?

My life philosophy is just to be kind to everyone and everything- whether a fellow human or animal or insect! I don’t like to judge- I can’t help but be an advocate to everyone. From a very early age, I realized that I wasn’t religious, but that I wanted to live with high morals and values.


What do you like most about yourself?

I think my favorite thing about myself is my personal style. I have had to learn over the years to be myself and dig deep to find the things that truly make me happy- and not those around me. I love expressing myself with jewelry, headbands, clothing, makeup, and other accessories. I find that it is a way to embrace the things I really love and practice being my true self.


If you could change the world, what would you change?

I think empathy is key; if I could make everyone feel empathy, the world would be a better place!


What do you think is the meaning of life?

The meaning of life is to be happy in the moment, learn to be present and let go of the past and things we can’t control.


Do you prefer working alone, or do you like working with others?

I love working alone, but working with others can be very rewarding as well. There is nothing like collaborating and bouncing ideas off of someone else. My leadership style is not to be a boss, but to be an equal with employees.


What’s something that no one would guess about you?

Something no one would guess about me is that I’m a gamer! I love playing video games!


What is your deepest belief about life?

My deepest belief about life is that people need to think for themselves and question things. To be a freethinker is the most important thing in this world.


If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?

I would love to wake up in Paris tomorrow and finally see the city that is so much a part of the inspiration for our business.


If you could do anything, anywhere right now, what and where would it be?

I would love to be in Manchester right now, taking a tour of the set of my favorite TV show, Coronation Street.


What’s the one thing you wish you could have a do-over for?

I would go back and marry my husband sooner! We waited about 8 years before we got married and if I could do it over, I would have married him about 6 years sooner!


How do you work on yourself?

I love to exercise! It is my time to work on not only my body but also my mind. That is a time that is just for me and when you’re working out, it’s hard to think about problems of the day. I have been working out for about 10 years now.


What’s one thing you’ve had to overcome in your life?

I was in a difficult relationship in high school and to this day it’s remained one of the more difficult things I’ve had to overcome.


How do you handle being in a bad mood?

My husband I my number one sounding board for bad moods. All I have to do is call him or come home and I can lay it all out for him and he will work it through with me. He will talk all night if he has to, to get the problem sorted out.


Who is the most important person in your life?

I would say it would be between my husband Chris and my mother. They are both so important to me, and I don’t know how I’d cope without either of them.


What did you learn about yourself from any of your previous relationships?

Through that troubling relationship I had in high school, I learned how important it is to stick up for yourself and follow your own path. I never want to worry and stress like I did during that phase of my life. It taught me happiness is the number one goal to be striving for.


What question do you always want people to ask you about yourself?

I wish there was a way for people to know I’m Jewish! My grandma always used to say, people will always look at you and know you are Asian, but there isn’t a way for them to know you are Jewish, so you have to tell people!


What is your favorite music, or song you think a person should listen to at least once?

I think my favorite songs of all time are Jackson Browne songs. One Christmas when I was still young, my brother got me a Jackson Browne greatest hits album and said “no sister of mine is going to NOT know Jackson Browne!” So I learned them and there is still nothing as satisfying as belting out The Pretender or Late for the Sky.


If you weren’t here running your business, what would you be doing instead?

Interior Design is my other passion and I would probably be doing that!


How has this pandemic affected YOU or YOUR BUSINESS here in the Driftless?

One positive the pandemic did for us is it made people appreciate our kind of business a bit more. When big craft fairs got canceled, vendors were still able to sell in our market. And people were so very thankful to have somewhere to go.


What is another name you would give the Driftless?

Honestly calling it Unglaciated might be less confusing for most people


What is your favorite season in the Driftless & why?

I love summer! The beauty of the area really pops and I can’t get enough of the warmth and humidity!


Tell us of an experience /memory you had with Driftless lakes, rivers or waterways?

I always think of the hikes my husband and I went on when we first started dating. I think it was actually our date!


Is there any place in the world you have been that reminds you of, or is similar to the Driftless?

When we went to England, driving in the countryside, I was struck by how similar it looked to home.


What is one of your best childhood memory?

My mom and I used to watch the Sherry-Butt house when I was kid (we actually still do it to this day) and I have some of my favorite memories of playing make-believe Victorian times there. It was the best.


What are some of your favorite places to go for fun here in the Driftless?

We love the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. It is the most magical and glorious place.


What are some of your favorite places to eat here in the Driftless?

Driftless Cafe, Salt and Tipple, Maybe Latetlys, The Cheese Corner!


If you were to tell a friend to come and visit the Driftless Area, and they ask “Why” … What would you tell them?

It’s unlike anywhere else in the world!


Are you a Cat or Dog person?


Are you an Early Bird or Late Owl?

Late Owl

If given the opportunity, would you go to outerspace?


What color socks are you currently wearing?

Rothy slippers

What skill or instrument would you like to learn or play?

I’d love to get better at the piano

What 1 message would you put in a bottle?

you matter

What was your very first job?

I was a florist and I loved it!

If any, what would be your dream job?

Bookstore owner

How / where did you meet your best friend?

In middle school

What does your dream vacation look like?

Either Paris or London- to shop the street markets!

Tell us a short joke or punchline.

Did you know Fries aren’t made in France? They’re made in Grease.

If you could learn another language, what would that be?


I Would Rather …

Live in a tree house

By: Rachel Olson
Photos produced by Rachel Olson