In Jenn Zutter’s phone, she has a picture of 171 W. Main St. with a “For Rent” sign in the window, dated Sept. 28.
Just three days later, Zutter and business owner Karen Tardrew signed a lease at the historic building. Four weeks later, they turned the space into Grasshopper Goods, a new lifestyle boutique for women.
Tardrew, owner, and Zutter, creative director, have transformed the once mobile boutique into a permanent brick and mortar store in downtown Stoughton.
Grasshopper Goods’ original home was a 1977 Chevy Stepvan. The 22-foot long mobile boutique put 6,000 miles on the first year in business. Tardrew and Zutter sold goods at 100 different events and were the first mobile boutique in Wisconsin, they said.
But now, nearly five years later, they are ready to make a home in the “Norwegian small town.”
Mid-century modern cabinets display candles and artesian hot chocolates. Four, live-edge, ash tree tables, handcrafted by Tardrew’s brother, display earrings, purses and shirts that read “Mendota, Monona, Kegonsa, Waubesa, Wingra.” All the table tops came from one ash tree, which had to dry out for four years before being made into a table.
And sprinkled in between the items are flowers, and welcome gifts from downtown businesses and neighbors. After opening, they instantly felt welcome to the city, Tardrew said.
Zutter managed A Stone’s Throw, a boutique women’s clothing store on Monroe Street. And Tardrew is a professor at National-Louis University based in Chicago and president of the International Visual Literacy Association.
Both careers place emphasis on the impact of visual things, Tardrew said, which are “perfect qualities” for the boutique and the business owner duo.
Tardrew and Zutter said they learned a lot from that original mobile boutique.
Zutter, who describes herself as particular and detail-oriented, had to be selective with the items she displayed in the truck.
“No one wanted to try on a $100 outfit in a dressing room, in a van, with little air conditioning,” Zutter said.
So she started to find T-shirts that someone could hold up to their chest and eyeball the size.
The truck will still be operational during the summer, traveling to different festivals like Madison Night Market, Fete De Marquette and Madison Winter Market.
But now have the ability to sell products year round and carry things like glass candles and ceramic knick-knacks; something that was impossible to do in a traveling van.
They also want to carry food items like coffee beans, granola and hot chocolates something that was not possible in a van that wasn’t temperature controlled.
While traveling in the van, Tardrew said they enjoyed visiting small towns because they were “always good to us.”
“And now we are part of one” Tardrew said.