Wis. business owner, city at odds over use of pink color

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HUDSON, Wis.—Pink is at the center of controversy between the city of Hudson and local business BB Makeup Cosmetics Bar.

BB stands out on Third Street in downtown Hudson, and that's just the way owner Brooke Fleetwood wants it. She chose the paint for the building to match her brand — pink.

"It's my look, it's my brand. I feel like I own this place so I should be able to do the look of my business," Fleetwood said.

The city, however, has notified Fleetwood that the color violates zoning code established in 2007. The downtown district guidelines include regulation regarding "changes to existing color," according to a statement from Hudson Community Development Director Mike Johnson. The code states the guidelines are designed to "ensure coordinated design of new and existing building exteriors, additions and accessory structure exteriors in order to prevent visual disharmony" and "minimize adverse impacts on adjacent properties from building which detract from the character and appearance of the district."

The Third Street building was first purchased by Fleetwood a year ago. During a visit to city hall at the time, Fleetwood said she was told she would not be able to paint her new building pink. Fleetwood said she pointed out other businesses in Hudson that had non-neutral colors.

"So why are you discriminating against the pink?" Fleetwood said.

After a year went by and other businesses weren't told to repaint their colors, she decided to go ahead with hers. BB, which is located across from city hall, was painted pink in July.

"If somebody has to follow the rules, everyone should have to," she said.

Fleetwood received a phone call from the city just three days later, and then a letter delivered at the end of August giving her 30 days notice to repaint the business. She opened it on Wednesday, Sept. 20, just ahead of the 30-day deadline. Not willing to back down, in just a few days she was able to submit an appeal, and rally people to her side with social media posts and almost 6,000 signatures on a petition as of Friday, Sept. 22.

"It's nice to have such a positive following and a lot of voices so I don't have to do it myself," she said.

For Fleetwood pink is more than just a color. Her connection with it started when she first moved to Hudson as a high school student and was looking for a way to stand out.

"Everybody started recognizing me as the pink girl," she said.

Beyond the pink BB business, she also owns a pink house on Vine Street and three pink cars. The color is an important part of her brand that she said helps her be successful.

"I wanted an empire. I wanted people to know who I am," she said. "Otherwise businesses go under."

Standing out helps more than just her business, Fleetwood said. She draws clients from around the country, and she said those who come to see her also visit other businesses downtown.

"I love Hudson. I love everything about it," she said. "I love the downtown, the people, the community."

She wouldn't want to have this business anywhere else, but she wants to do it her way.

"There are people who want to stick to the basics, they're used to white, beige, brown and nowadays you have to change it up," she said. "You can't stick to that anymore."

The appeal will be heard by the Downtown Overlay District - Design Review Committee at a currently unset date.