Grasshopper Goods hops from location to location

This mobile merchange travels around Madison
Grasshopper Goods hops from location to location
Photo by Timothy Hughes

When owning a local shop, storeowners have to be keenly aware of what’s new and next to keep customers coming in. And Karen Tardrew, owner of Grasshopper Goods, a mobile retail van, is certainly capitalizing on that with her boutique on wheels, traveling to various events and happy hours throughout the city and state. The concept launched in January 2016 was five years in the making for the college professor who runs the show, plus a creative director and intern.

“We are the first registered mobile boutique in the state with the American Mobile Retail Association,” Tardrew says proudly. “There are 500 [of these] in the country, but Wisconsin is the last state to have one.”

The 22-foot-long 1977 step van (nicknamed “Vinny”) was given a full makeover by Tardrew’s brother and features wood laminate flooring, faux crocodile seats, burlap accents, wood shelving and, amazingly, an adorable dressing room with curtains.

The van is expertly merchandised with women’s apparel, jewelry, handbags, wallets, home goods and items for guys, like flasks and beard balm. Tardrew says she focuses primarily on Midwest makers, like Mount Horeb’s American Provenance and Milwaukee’s Tactile Craftworks, but occasionally branches out if she loves a line, such as Tribe of Dreamers jewelry from California.

This month, her online shop goes live ( with selected favorites and one-of-a-kind jewelry, and, closer to the holiday, she’ll co-host an emerging artist event at Threshold–which aligns perfectly with her goal to promote artists.

“I love working with the artists and makers–I feel like I’m a maker mom,” she says, smiling. “I want to support them and get the word out for them.”Grasshopper Goods hops from location to location

They’re Clutch
These Emmylou clutches and wallets have cool patterns and look far more expensive than their price range. $12-$37 Grasshopper Goods hops from location to location

Boho Chic
Soko’s fair-trade brass jewelry has a minimalist, bohemian vibe. $36-$80Grasshopper Goods hops from location to location

City Pride
For a distinctive gift for yourself or the guy in your life, pick up Tactile Craftworks’ leather-accented flask or clutch with a map of Madison on it. $35-$90

Shayna Mace is a contributor to Madison Magazine. Catch her style segments on WISC-TV’s Live at 4.