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Lake Life Co.'s story started after Amy Bernards' husband survived a brain aneurysm.
“We decided that our lives were no longer guaranteed, and we were going to spend the rest of our time living them to the absolute fullest,” says Bernards, a Waunakee resident.
After Bernards and her family purchased a lake home in northern Wisconsin, the idea was born for a retail store selling products that embody the idea of "lake life" — a mental state that is all about living boldly, bravely and in the moment.
In February, Lake Life Co. opened in Waunakee selling products meant to help clientele slow down and place more importance on friends, family and others in the community.
“Lake life is not just a brand, but a whole way of life,” says Bernards.
Along with offering products made by local makers, Lake Life Co. also sells products created by the Bernards. Back in October 2015, Bernards’ daughter Grace approached her with an online recipe for a pumpkin spice sugar scrub.
“I loved it,” says Bernards, who is also a dermatology physician assistant. “We started gifting [the scrub] to our neighbors and my nursing staff and opened an Etsy shop in December 2015.”
After opening her Etsy shop, she started making soy candles in addition to the scrubs. “I was at home looking at all of my candles blowing black smoke into the air and decided we could do better with that,” Bernards says.
Because soy candles have fewer carcinogens, it can be safer for people with asthma and allergies. Most of Lake Life Co.'s soy candles burn more than 70 hours and are all produced, shipped and made with products sourced from the United States.
After working out of her home for two years, Bernards' business became more than a hobby, and she says she knew they needed a storefront. “We now have 50 retailers all across the United States that we ship to and our online business is going strong,” she says.
Lake Life Co. offers candles and sugar scrubs as well as apparel, body butter, drink ware, wall art, dog dishes and other products from local makers.
“We are giving the community the opportunity to have many makers in one spot,” says Bernards.
Some of the makers have their own survivor stories like Bernards’ husband. Others, like self-taught woodworker Jay Kang, have left corporate positions to pursue their creative businesses. And most of Bernards' makers donate a percentage of proceeds to charity.
“Not only are we all about filling our business with family and friends, we are all about giving back,” says Bernards.
Bernards, whose husband is in law enforcement, created the Thin Blue Line of candles to support Madison’s Capital K9s, a nonprofit supporting the Madison Police Department K9 Unit, and Law Enforcement Unit, a program that supports families of officers lost in the line of duty. Fifty percent of the line’s proceeds are donated to these two charities.
“Now that we are local [to Waunakee] and have a storefront, we are also going to be donating to the Waunakee fire and police departments through our Thin Red Line, which is to honor firefighters who have died,” Bernards says.
Bernards also donates to Market Day in Verona, which raises money for Alzheimer’s research and she created a custom candle line for Farm Sanctuary, a group that rescues abused farm animals.
Bernards says Lake Life Co. plans to host free community classes in its upstairs loft area.
“We wanted the shop to be more than just a typical retail space, and [the loft] is a great spot to utilize for classes or to socialize and work," Bernards says.
When the weather warms up, Bernards plans to have local food carts on the storefront’s patio and will start selling flowers, supplied by Crazy Daisy Flower Truck in May.
“Lake life appeals to everybody,” says Bernards. “It’s really what we stand for and what we want to portray out of all of this. Dream big. Live bold. Be Brave. Just jump in.”
Specialty line candles
This citrus basil soy candle called "Madison" is part of Lake Life Co.’s specialty collection. The line has about 10 candle designs celebrating special occasions or life's little moments. $8-$35
Custom handmade wineglass
Part of living the "lake life" is kicking back and enjoying a favorite beverage. These stemless wineglasses are customizable, so you can add names, logos, designs and more. $12
Wisconsin-shaped magnetic bottle opener
Jay Kang of Rescued Woodworks quit his corporate position at Red Bull to become a maker. His handcrafted items, like these magnetic bottle openers, are made from rescued urban wood. $40
Abigail Carpenter is an editorial intern at Madison Magazine.
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