Sassafras and Karen & Co. are State Street mainstays

One combined storefront, two classic chic spots
Sassafras and Karen & Co. are State Street mainstays
Photo by Timothy Hughes

Forty-seven years ago, Karen and Dan Fix opened the women’s specialty store Sassafras Ltd., one of State Street’s longest continually running businesses. Eight years later, in 1978, they opened Karen & Co., one block down from Sassafras. The State Street location choice was always a strategic one.

“We chose State Street without hesitation,” Karen says. “It is the heart of the city and attracts customers from all over the world.”

In 2003, the Fixes combined the stores into one storefront (with two entrances) where the specialty store is today. Karen says originally each shop had a different viewpoint, with Sassafras carrying classic, upmarket pieces and Karen & Co. with younger, more casual items.

The space imparts a warm and cozy, timeless feel with built-in wood fixtures, cream walls and exposed brick throughout–adding to the historic vibe of what a downtown boutique should be. Clothing is hung with care and showcased cleanly–upscale boutique-style. While the shop has trend-driven items every season, it’s the enduring wardrobe staples that customers gravitate toward, like premium denim, washable leather jackets, shoes, scarves, knits and Lancaster travel bags.

“Rather than following trends, we draw upon our instincts and intuition to create each season’s direction. We are influenced by our customers’ ever changing lifestyles,” says Karen.

And although the Fixes have seen State Street go from being open to motor vehicle traffic to, in 1974, a pedestrian thoroughfare with all of its ebbs and flows in the years since, Karen wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We are witnessing the emerging change in demographics, from millennials to baby boomers, moving into the area and embracing its lifestyle, from shops to restaurants. Madison style is changing along with them.”Sassafras and Karen & Co. are State Street mainstays

Just for Kicks
These Summit by White Mountain sneaks are a perfect fall shoe. “We all [in the store] wear them everyday,” says Karen Fix. $149Sassafras and Karen & Co. are State Street mainstays

Luxe Leather
Jakett’s washable lambskin moto jackets are a classic go-to in the store. “They elevate your style when you wear them,” Karen Fix says. $550-$650Sassafras and Karen & Co. are State Street mainstays

Handbag Heaven
A structured, perfectly-sized classic black bag is a must for fall. $348

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