Fifteen years after replacing a nautical-themed gift shop, Bekah Stelling’s store has become one of downtown Baraboo’s anchors.
Bekah Kate’s Kitchen, Kids & Home celebrated its 15th anniversary Saturday in conjunction with Fair on the Square, featuring special deals and product demonstrations.
The store got its start in the former home of Nautical Notions on Third Street, selling kitchenware, children’s clothing and china. It now offers gourmet food, a proprietary line of herb dips and homemade fudge. Carrying all these products meant expanding into an adjacent shop some locals may remember as the onetime home of Red Goose Shoes.
Bekah Kate’s has become a draw, with online reviewers saying they were pleasantly surprised to find such a cosmopolitan store in a small town. Regulars tell Stelling that when guests visit from out of town, they’re sure to show them her business.
“That kind of thing makes me proud,” she said.
“Shoppers were amazed a store like that could be found in our small city,” said Deirdre Marshall, president of the Downtown Baraboo Inc. business group. “We feel very lucky she chose to open her store here.”
Through the products she sells and the classes she offers, Stelling encourages customers to cook at home. Family meals can be challenging to schedule, but if Stelling can pull it off, others have no excuse. She and husband Mark have three boys at home, and she serves on several boards when she isn’t busy spearheading events like the Wine Walk or pushing to create Nanny Park downtown.
“I wouldn’t want to just plop myself in a community and not be part of it,” she said. “I love how the community works together.”
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She credited her husband — and the occasional notable customer — with helping her juggle motherhood with business. “Tammy Baldwin held my baby,” she said.
Marshall said Stelling’s efforts, whether they’re geared toward growing her business or installing public art, have improved the community.
“The success of her store, combined with Bekah’s leadership, generosity and involvement in the community, has really contributed to downtown Baraboo’s growth as a shopping destination,” Marshall said.
Stelling’s secret is following consumer trends, within her store and around the country. “Our kids area did so well that we decided to expand,” she said, noting that a display of gourmet food emptied the first weekend Bekah Kate’s opened in May 2004. “I said, ‘Oh, well, I guess this is something people want.’”
Meanwhile, she got away from selling china and promoting gift registries when the recession hit a decade ago. She filled the void by adding to the store’s selection of wine, a product in demand in good times and bad.
“We needed to keep getting things that drove people back,” she said.
She and her staff of five, some of whom have been on board more than a decade, pride themselves on creating visually appealing window displays that bring people in the door. And if that doesn’t work, the smell of fresh fudge typically does.
They’ll also continue to monitor the prevailing winds and chart a course accordingly.
“We’re still evolving,” Stelling said.