Friday, October 26, 2007

Oh Baby!

The Madison Holiday Market is coming up next weekend, Nov 2–4. One cool retailer that’ll be there is Gaga Goods, a baby clothing and toy company based in Madison. Owner Kathryn Adler says that the company is neat for a couple of reasons: their apparel is one hundred percent cotton and made in the U.S.; they offer free gift card and packaging on all orders; and they donate five percent of sales to a children’s charity. The online business will be offering a few quick picks at the Holiday Market like the adorable holiday-themed onesies (shown), newborn baby sets and cool toys from eeBoo, North American Bear Co. and Crocodile Creek. Personally, she sold me on the cute onesies that the company designs ☺.
Adler’s website ( is tailor-made for easy ordering and gift giving. You can shop by design, product, brand or use the “easy gift-giver.” The site also houses Adler’s blog, plus other helpful links for parents on, well, parenting.
Look for Gaga Goods next weekend at the Madison Holiday Market, Nov 2–4.

Madison Holiday Market, Nov 2, 10a–6p, Nov 3, 10a–6p, Nov 4, 10a–3p. Alliant Energy Center, 1919 Alliant Energy Center Way. $5.

Cool Comfort

I attended a party for the brand Icebreaker at Opus Lounge on Tuesday. This line of pure merino wool clothing from New Zealand is outdoor/active gear and meant for layering in warm or cold weather. Items range from long-sleeve T-shirts and zip-up jackets to leggings, socks and more (shown is the men's "Sprint" zip, and the men’s Tech T Lite). Even better is that the line is sustainable; the product brochure notes that “Icebreaker fabrics use one-third the energy of polyester to manufacture, create virtually nil pollution and meet strict ISO4001 envinronmental standards.” Cool!
In 2008 customers will get even closer to their sheep friends who produce the merino wool in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. “Baacodes” are codes that match a batch of wool that the garment was produced from. That code will be printed inside Icebreaker garments so that wearers can trace back to one of the merino ranches that the garment came from. Molly King, marketing coordinator for the brand, says there will probably be another reason to look up your “baacode” online: customers could win a trip to New Zealand.
Icebreaker clothing sells very well at the following Madison stores: Rutabaga Paddle Sports, Budget Bicycle Center, A Stone’s Throw and Fontana.

A Stone’s Throw, 1925 Monroe St. 255-1925.
Budget Bicycle Center, 1230 Regent St. 251-8413
Fontana Sports Specialties, 251 State St. 257-5043; 7941 Tree Ln. 833-9191
Rutabaga Paddle Sports, 220 W. Broadway. 233-9300

Makeover Time

I recently received a press release from Century Furniture (not to be confused with Century House here in Madison) on their plans to release a black-and-white upholstered collection at the Fall 2007 International Home Furnishings Market. While I wasn’t familiar with the company or the market, the images that were sent along with the press release were stellar. Cool curvy ottomans, retro white armchairs with black and white scrollwork upholstery and the beautiful Tuxedo Wing Chair. The reason I mention my love of black and white furnishings is because I recently “made over” a chair I found on a curb near my apartment, if you can believe that. Hey, the price was right!
Originally a wood dining room chair with a bland mauve upholstered cushion, I decided to jazz it up with my vision: spray-paint the frame a glossy black and reupholster the cushion in a black and white brocade patterned fabric. Tres chic!
Not only did the chair turn out swimmingly (with the assistance of my mom—thanks mom!) but it was incredibly inexpensive to make over. And I can say I did it myself!

Monday, October 22, 2007

New Column

Read my November column on The Guild here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Cool New Product Lines

Stepping into Indocara on West Washington always relaxes me. The serene interior combined with the wafting scent from the lovely aromatic diffuser calms my senses.
On my most recent visit, owner Natasha Vora had some new product lines to share with me. First were the delicious and soy-based Archipelago body lotions, candles and shower gels. Vora gave me two samples of the pomegranate hand cream and I have already used both of them up—it was that good. They’re definitely on my short list of gift ideas for the upcoming holiday season. The store already sells one pre-packaged set of Archipelago products and most likely, we’ll see more for the holidays. With prices ranging from $8–$34, this is an affordable, yet luxurious gift.
Vora is also carrying L.A. designer Nathan Anthony’s line of furniture. These made to order, upholstered pieces have a lifetime guarantee. Shoppers can go through Vora’s look book of options, pick out a fabric (I personally loved the funky mod sunburst print and the black and white brocade), send out the order and voila!—the item will be sent back made just for you in eight weeks. Fun fact: at least one of Anthony’s pieces has been spotted in episodes of Entourage.

Indocara, 540 W. Washington Ave. 251-7711.

Food and Wine Extravaganza

As a booth judge for this weekend’s Madison Food and Wine Show, my job is pretty fun. I get to visit each booth at the show and rate the booth’s overall look and the helpfulness/friendliness of the booth workers. By and large everyone is excited to be at the show and many booths go all out trying to outdo the others in booth décor.
But did you know that the Food and Wine Show is a great opportunity to pick up Christmas gifts too? Many of the vendors sell their yummy specialty foods and beverages right at the show. Pick up your favorite bottle (or case) of wine at the wine cellar or some delicious gourmet mustard to pair with pretzels. The savory possibilities are endless.
See you at the Show!

Madison Food and Wine Show: Oct 19, 5–9p, Oct 20, 12–7p, Oct 21, 12–4p. Tickets: $30/35 DOS. Alliant Energy Center, 1919 Alliant Energy Center Way. 270-3632.

Ice-T Would Approve

I wrote about Macha Teahouse + Art Gallery in our October issue. This imaginative gallery and teahouse features three different themed tearroms, cool art and a “wall of famous T’s”—complete with pics of the Ford Model-T, manatee and, well, Mr. T (what’s a wall of T’s without Mr. T??)
With the cool weather approaching (this week excluded, of course) it’s a good time to try Macha, grab a cup of tea and see what’s new. In addition to serving tea cookies and croissants, Macha now offers quiche and will add sandwiches and light lunch items in the near future. Also check out some of the events they’ll have going on, like different afternoon tea services and a jewelry and gift event for the holidays. Their website is updated, too, with information on tea and health, tea brewing instructions and “tea wisdom.”

Macha Teahouse + Art Gallery, 1934 Monroe St. 442-0500.

New Store Update

I wrote about Fontaine on East Johnson three weeks ago. I stopped in this home décor and interior design firm last week and was I impressed! This tastefully and beautifully designed store showcases owner Barry Avery’s impeccable eye for design and detail. All items featured in each “vignette” are for sale—things like the vintage-look crystal chandeliers that hang throughout the shop, the Christmas trees that sprinkle the sales floor and the glass case chock-full of vintage ornaments. More details on Fontaine to come!

Fontaine, 811 E. Johnson St. 310-8002.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Take A Bite

For Sex and the City addicts, Sarah Jessica Parker is somewhat of a fashion icon. In the show and her "normal" celebrity life, this diva sports Oscar de la Renta, Chanel—and let’s not forget the sky-high Manolos and Christian Laboutin heels that polish off her every look. Despite these big-ticket items SJP wears, her affordable Bitten line has been very successful at Steve and Barry’s—almost too successful, considering every time I go to the Steve and Barry’s at West Towne Mall her line is very picked over. People like her stuff!
Her fall line is no exception, filled with basic pieces kicked up a notch with stylish accents. All items are $19.98 or less. This fall’s line includes cute stuff like a basic black short-sleeve turtleneck sweater with kimono sleeves, a cute houndstooth winter coat and a black or white shirt with a sweet tuxedo bib-collar. Pretty basic, but all items that you can mix and match and, of course, layer with your existing wardrobe.
Two items I like (and might buy!): the houndstooth coat ($19.98) and the sleeveless sweater ($19.98).

Steve and Barry’s, 229 West Towne Mall. 829-1774.

Bead It

There’s a new store opening up for all of you beaders and crafters! Modern Bead will open in Old Sauk Center sometime (hopefully) in December. The owners are still reaching a lease agreement. More on this when I get details!

Go Green

I received an interesting item in the mail: Spare Change Jewelry’s “Shades of Green” collection. Since our September issue was the “green” issue, I am now fully versed in what it means to be green. These necklaces are supposed to be a constant reminder to the wearer: “these simple pieces will also become a daily reminder to bring balance to the world and your life.”
Quite a tall order for a necklace! But, the necklaces are cute (the “Handle With Care” necklace is a simple sterling-silver Aspen leaf strung on a green linen cord—very nice). In addition, each piece of jewelry comes with a little packet of seeds to plant.

Walk the Walk

Speaking of green, Jack’s Shoes on State Street sells Simple’s ecoSNEAKS, made with sustainable materials like organic cotton, recycled plastics and recycled car tires. They look pretty comfy with slip-on versions and regular sneaker. One women’s sneaker (the women’s Joe Curran Satire) is printed with scenes of Santa Barbara. If you want “shoes for a happy planet,” check out the ecoSNEAKS at Jack’s Shoes.

Jack’s Shoes, 204 State St. 257-9766.

Party Hearty

Dazzle, the fabulous jewelry and handbag store, is celebrating its third anniversary! Owner Valerie Martin is passionate about her business and offers women the chance to try out new and fun looks with "designer-inspired jewelry handbags and more" at a fraction of the cost of, say, a David Yurman necklace or cocktail ring, or Chanel earrings. If you’re interested in the store’s third anniversary celebration, give them a call!

Dazzle, 8426 Old Sauk Rd., Middleton. 826-4455.

Fashionistas, Unite!

Does a Fashionista Meet & Greet sound like fun to you? It does to me! Check out FoRCE’s (Foundation of Retaining Creative Energy) event on Friday, October 19 to meet area retailers and local fashion designers. The event is open to the public and will even feature local still life model art for some visual excitement.

Fashionista Meet & Greet, October 19, 10 p.m. Cloud Nine Grill, 876 Jupiter Dr. 310-8100.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Stylemaker Q&A

Katy Schalles
Owner, Katy’s American Indian Arts

1817 Monroe St. 251-5451.

Katy’s American Indian Arts is a one-of-a-kind business in Madison that’s been around for an amazing thirty-three years. That’s a long time in the retail world, especially for a local, independently owned business. We explore Katy Schalles’ secrets to success.

How did you become interested in American Indian art?
I always was interested, from a kid on. My father hunted and fished, and almost all of the people he hunted and fished with were Wisconsin Indian friends. To this day I maintain friendships with people from the Ho-Chunk Nation, Menomonee, Ojibwe people, the Oneidas.

When did you start the business?
I started it in May 1974. I moved in to a Monroe Street space in 1983, and I’ve been in the current location eleven years. (Her current location is 1817 Monroe Street).

Why did you start your business?
I was teaching school in New Mexico—English as a second language and Spanish as a second language. I enjoyed it, and kept running into kids and their parents who made American Indian jewelry. Combine that with my mother, who owned a number of small businesses—a dress shop, sewing business, ran a bakery had an antique shop. I set up my business first in her antique shop. That was in Waunakee.

Why did you move back here?
Well, I’m originally from Madison. I was lonesome for my family. I knew there wasn’t any shop for what I had in mind back here.

Why did you think an American Indian arts store would work in Madison?
I just had a feeling. I’m a Midwesterner and I liked what I saw. I just felt that what I liked, other people would like. Fifty percent of the reason was that I wanted to have a business to support myself, and second was that I wanted to have a business to support the artists. Because they needed a place to show their work.

How do you classify your business?
[Jewelry is] a best seller. It’s American Indian arts, so that covers things besides jewelry that indigenous artists create both here in the Midwest and the Southwest.

What’s your most popular selling item?
Turquoise and silver earrings.

How do you find your artists?
When I was living in New Mexico, I would travel around and go to different places and look at how other people set up their shops. I would ask them where the artists were living, and where they got their stuff. There are fifteen million acres of these reservation areas [in New Mexico], where these people live.

How often do you go down to New Mexico for merchandise?
I go down in person at least three times a year. I’m very fortunate and the [artists] come up to here and sell to me. We either have a big show and sale when they’re here, or we sell in private.
There are also established trading posts in the Southwest. There are third- and fourth-generation families that run these trading posts. A lot of families prefer bringing their things to trading posts than bringing things directly to me for a number of reasons: they’re shy, they don’t speak English. So they prefer to deal with these long standing trading post families. So I also buy from those trading posts.

What unique experiences do you have dealing with an artist who is perhaps more traditional, or doesn’t speak English?
There are some very distinct differences. Buying from these indigenous artists, whether they be Pueblo, Ho-Chunk et cetera, you have to pay them immediately. These people make a living doing this. You can’t just give them a charge card. You have to pay them directly and immediately.
Second, I have learned in these thirty-five years how to readjust myself culturally and adapt to many of the ways that will allow them to feel at home and feel comfortable in me and trust in me.

What do you look for in the things you carry?
What I think my customer prefers. That includes really good, quality, clean, silverwork. Top quality stones, originality of designs.

What kinds of stones do you carry?
Most of the pieces are turquoise because that’s native of the area geologically in the Southwest, and part of their [Native Americans’] cultural upbringing. It’s part of the cultural background. They also work with other stones too.

How do you compete in a marketplace that’s ever changing? How does traditional American Indian art fit in with our retail culture of designer jeans and trendy accessories?
There are already among the jewelers and the potters, people who are way up there. They demand the most. On Antiques Roadshow, for example, the most expensive item represented American Indian culture.
Many of these people have taken their art form to such a level that they have learned to market it themselves. A number of the artists that do show with us in the store are very well known on their own. People immediately know their names.

What changes have you noticed in the Madison marketplace?
As the years have gone by more people, especially up until this war, had more money. What was happening is that we tended to travel more. I noticed that when I first opened versus twenty years later, people knew more about what they wanted because they had visited Santa Fe. People became more sophisticated buyers. They knew what they wanted. As they years go by, the world gets smaller and more people know what they want.

What’s the most expensive piece you sell?
In my opinion the prettiest and most outstanding piece right now is a round pendant. It’s has a silver border around it and it’s inlaid with orange and purple spiny oyster shell. It’s the fall look. It’s $600 for earrings and the pendant.

Do you have advice for other small-business owners?
I think you have to build slowly. You have to have integrity and patience. And you have to really enjoy people.