Born from a growing niche and a need to expand, Brenda Blumenladen’s newest extension continues many of the same qualities that made the original a local favorite. These days, it’s becoming a major competitive advantage.
For years, Brenda Siegenthaler has reaped success with her New Glarus, Wis., floral shop and other stores. Growth continues to come by watching for new opportunities.
Brenda’s Blumenladen, 17 Sixth Ave., has long been a specialist in fresh floral arrangements, home goods, gifts and garden plants decor, but there was also a time when it was a retailer of scarves and jewelry.
“After a year or two of pressure, and having a little jewelry table and some easy-fit clothing, people kept telling me, ‘Oh, you’ve got to get into this. You’ve got to do this,’” explains Siegenthaler. “So, we started selling clothing, jewelry and accessories at the Blumenladen.”
Within a short time, Siegenthaler was using a third of the store for clothing and jewelry. Things started to feel crowded. She debated over the best course of action.
Inspiration struck when Siegenthaler attended an independent garden center seminar. As one speaker shared insights on business growth, Siegenthaler was struck when the speaker said, “Don’t look for other places until you’re making the most of what you have.” It was the aha moment. Behind Blumenladen was a large lot that had been used for the garden center. It could easily fit a building.
“At the time, I was looking at opening another shop in New Glarus, a town we love doing business in,” Siegenthaler says. “Building in town here made sense.”
More importantly, Siegenthaler’s husband was in her corner.
“He just said, ‘Brenda, if you’re going to do it, make it big enough and do it right,’” she says. “So, I had his blessing. He was behind me.”
The result is a specialty boutique located just south of Blumenladen. Railroad St. Boutique, at 18 Seventh Ave., carries a wide variety of brand names, and it’s infused a new specialty into the unique retail environment around downtown New Glarus. It’s also the third local store Siegenthaler operates in town. Kinderladen, a specialty toy shop, is located about a block away from the Blumenladen.
Railroad St. Boutique further extends the company’s brand.
“I think it must be one of the largest boutiques in southern Wisconsin,” Siegenthaler says. “A lot of times when people think boutiques they think small. It’s a pretty good-sized store.”
The variety is surprising to many. Core apparel brands include Tribal, Z Supply, Jag Jeans, Karen Kane, Doe & Rae, Kancan, Elietian, Cubism, Papillon and Joseph Ribkoff. There are also accessory and jewelry brands such as Vera Bradley, Travelon, Peepers and Natural Life – not to mention bath and body products from the likes of Finchberry, The Thymes and Inis.
“We’re always looking for good brands and things with quality that are made to last and make ladies feel good,” Siegenthaler says.
Since opening in 2016, the boutique has received compliments from customers who were grateful for the store’s highly personal customer service. It’s not uncommon for someone to emerge from the dressing room and ask, “Does this fit? How would you accessorize this?” Siegenthaler says.
“My staff here is really good at styling outfits and putting things together for people,” she adds. “I’ve heard over and over customers saying, ‘I would have never thought of that.’ The next day I’ll come to work and there’s a note on the desk saying, ‘Thank you so much. I had great service yesterday from an employee.’ Great service is one of the things that sets us apart and is often lacking in today’s world.”
By contrast, Railroad St. Boutique places a premium on the customer experience.
“These days, so many places are self-serve, and you order online, and you can’t touch and feel and see it,” Siegenthaler says. “I think we offer a fun, upbeat shopping experience. The staff is fun, and they’re helpful and make everyone feel comfortable and welcome.”
The store’s approach to customer service has been put to the test since March. When stay-at-home orders came into effect, the team explored new ways to keep the business fresh in people’s minds. One marketing employee focused on social media and ways customers could interact with the store – including private shopping.
“We set up appointments for private shopping. We did a lot of trials and videos on social media so people could actually see some of our items and do a lot of shopping via FaceTime with customers,” says Siegenthaler. “People were calling in and would want to schedule an appointment to come shopping, and we would set that up. They would want us to mail them bandanas, so we mailed them bandanas.”
The store’s already spacious accommodations have proven helpful lately, as it’s been easier to spread out. “We met the customer where they are comfortable and offer a comfortable shopping experience,” she says.
What’s been most interesting, Siegenthaler says, is that the past few months have brought about a subtle change in women’s styles.
“One thing is that we’re selling a lot more comfy clothes now than dressy clothes,” she says. “We’re definitely seeing a shift, and maybe it’s relative to how people are living. People are still giving gifts and they’re still treating themselves, but in a more comfortable manner.”
As business conditions continue to change, Siegenthaler has her eyes on the holiday shopping season. She believes it’s Railroad St. Boutique’s in-depth customer service that will make this a special shopping season.
“I feel like we have a great selection of apparel and accessories for the upcoming holiday seasons,” she says. “For those looking for a personal shopping experience with trendy, quality goods, Railroad Street Boutique and the other unique shops in New Glarus offer just that.”