As the owner of Brenda’s Blumenladen, in New Glarus, fills her store with whimsy and charm each season, she’s driven by a lifetime of passion for small-scale retail.
For years, Brenda’s Blumenladen, 17 Sixth Ave., in New Glarus, Wis., has been a go-to store for both locals and tourists alike, thanks to owner Brenda Siegenthaler’s creative vision. Every season, the store comes alive with inspiring ideas. For example, this holiday season, the floral and garden center carries a wide range of holiday gifts that make the store feel like a winter wonderland.
Siegenthaler owes her vision, in part, to an interest in retail that began at a very early age.
“When we moved to New Glarus, my father owned a Ben Franklin store and I worked with him,” Siegenthaler recalls. “I just really grew to love retail. The store was a variety store that carried everything, but my interests were floral.”
One day, driving through town, a building that was up for sale caught her eye. Siegenthaler thought it would be perfect for a garden center. She had always dreamed of having her own store, and the moment seemed right. Her father warned that it would be a lot of work, but Siegenthaler was up for the challenge and had her husband’s support.
“After putting some numbers together and some different scenarios, my dad got behind me and said, ‘All right, if you want to try it,’” she recalls.
Twenty-five years later, the store is still going strong and still changing with each new season. Today, products range from home goods, gifts, fresh flowers and houseplants to garden decor and athletic merchandise. The store is just as likely to carry whimsical garden art as it is to carry Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers apparel that appeases the sports lovers.
Siegenthaler is always looking for ways to grow. In the early years, she found she was often asked about gifts for men, so she’s added knit hats, clothes and boxer shorts. She’s also added smaller items like beer glasses and signs to complement.
This holiday season, the shop is focusing on a warm and cozy atmosphere, trying to evoke thoughts of curling up by the fire with a cup of cocoa.
“When I think of ‘warm and cozy’ I think of candles – anything that makes your home more cozy,” says Siegenthaler. “We’re all spending more time at home, so people are decorating their homes more.”
A hot trend for the winter season is gnomes in all different shapes and sizes. The shop also carries many holiday favorites such as Old World Christmas ornaments, calendars and Christmas cards, pine scents from Thymes and a wide selection of candles, plus lighted snowmen, trees – all things with lights.
“The days get shorter and darker, so any time we can light something up is good,” Siegenthaler says.
More holiday accessories for the home include collections of quality florals, pines and ribbon. Home decor for outside is also available, including wreaths, garlands, fresh trees, spruce tips, dogwood, pinecones and more to spruce up the yard. Plants in the garden center include poinsettias, Christmas cactus, Norfolk pines and succulents.
Another big trend this year for Brenda’s Blumenladen has been indoor plants, and Siegenthaler is constantly on the lookout for something unique for clients. Different containers, plant fans and macaroni hangers are available to those looking to expand or begin an indoor or outdoor garden.
Having a wide selection of items has been a big priority to Siegenthaler through most of her 25 years in business.
“Different things have evolved over the years, and I’ve always had a well-stocked store,” she says. “I’ve never been afraid to buy and listen to others.”
Siegenthaler constantly attends markets and gift shows to speak to vendors, which helps her to expand the variety of goods in her shop. She has also trained her to staff to stock the store with hand-selected items.
The diverse range of inventory has also led to new opportunities, including the addition of a secondary shop, Railroad St. Boutique, which is located next door at 18 Seventh Ave.
“I think what makes us unique is between Blumenladen and Railroad St. Boutique, our store spans an entire block,” says Siegenthaler. “It’s very spacious and there’s room to roam and room to grow. It never really seems crowded or uncomfortable.”
In those early days in business, Siegenthaler frequently spent seven days a week at the store, building the product mix and finding the right employees. When it comes to finding the right help, though, one thing stands out above the rest: passion.
“Just hire people who are passionate about what you do,” she says. “For me, it’s often ladies who love to garden, love to decorate or are crazy about clothes. Some ladies who work here just plain love people and love to provide customer service. Get the best help you can and take the best care of them.”
Above all, the customer’s opinion is the most important for Siegethaler. Often, before opening for the day, she’ll walk outside enter through the front door and think about her customers.
“I just want to see what they see. Is my outdoor site inviting? What do they see when they first walk in the door?” she asks. “I’m always trying to look at my store through my customer’s eyes and make sure it’s inviting and welcoming.”