unfolded

Photo by Andrea Behling

It wasn’t a student raising a hand, trying to get substitute teacher Tatum Schroeder’s attention. It was a space in Sauk Prairie, an imagination beyond the school corridors that was calling her name.

She and Melissa Hartwig, another substitute teacher, opened “Unfolded Clothing and Home,” at 422 Water St. in Prairie du Sac in early December.

Schroeder and her grandmother, who owned a store, used to make a day out of shopping together, grabbing a bite to eat and exploring the surrounding area.

​​“I love going to the local shops,” Schroeder says. Her grandmother ran her own beauty shop from 1956-1963. “I kind of feel like it’s coming full-circle.”

While big corporate stores have popped up around the country, it’s the classic mom and pop shops that still bring the community together. Schroeder’s grandmother shut down her store in the 50s when the larger department stores started gaining popularity.

Now, Schroeder and Hartwig are flipping the script.

“It’s the small little downtown shops and in these smaller towns that people like to go to,” Schroeder says. That’s especially true in Prairie du Sac, which draws in a number of tourists, especially during the summer months when people drive through to head to Wisconsin Dells. Schroeder and Hartwig’s shop is not too far from other big attractions including Wollersheim Winery and Devil’s Head Ski Resort, and the upcoming installation of Culver Park. With that in mind, they plan to offer some summer-themed items later that include elements of Devil’s Lake.

For Schroeder, it was especially disheartening to see so many stores close when the pandemic began. She emphasized that no boutique carries the exact same items.

“I know from my own shopping that I like to go to a town and go to several different shops if they have them. I don’t want to have to stop and just go to one,” Schroeder says.

Shoppers will be pleased to find new items rolling into Unfolded every week. Visitors can find sweaters, flannels and various clothing items for people of all ages from big brands including Free People, Liverpool and Cut Jeans.

In 2020, Hartwig bought used antiques and refinished furniture, much of which can now be found in her shop. She and Schroeder are also selling jewelry, handmade signs, candles and knick-knacks. Each week she highlights a new “piece of the week” on its Instagram page.

Hartwig says it’s like they’re floating on clouds as they get over the hump of the busiest time of year, ready to welcome visitors and holiday shoppers. And just like Schroeder’s grandmother’s shop, they are settling in just fine with their new store.

“The most exciting and rewarding thing is hearing all the feedback from the customers that come in. It just makes you feel good and justifies why you decided to open,” Hartwig says.

One of the many signs being sold at their shop read, “I am always with you.” It’s a message reminiscent of their fond memories with their grandmothers. Years later, they’re passing on new traditions. Schroeder and Hartwig’s teenage daughters are helping with social media and pointing out different clothing items to sell.

It’s a way to keep everyone involved. Hartwig and her grandmother also worked in the factory sewing garments during World War II, bringing home new dresses for the family.

When the pair were thinking again of their grandmothers Arleane White and Beatrice Vieth, or Bea, they knew which final touch to add to their logo. Just like the name of their store, their message became clear: this is how their story unfolded. And with that, they added a white bumblebee as their own tribute.

“We’ve had strong women in our lives, and ones who are crafty,” Schroeder adds.