Wisconsin Boutique Shopping

By Shayna Miller

Tired of the same old shopping experience at your local mall or big-box store? This holiday season hit the road to experience Wisconsin’s unique, eclectic, high-end and absolutely amazing boutique shopping destinations.

Milwaukee: Bright Lights, Big Shopping

The state’s largest city has a slew of amazing shops boasting women’s clothing, jewelry, gifty goods and even men’s hats. The Third Ward has a cluster of beautiful boutiques located in buildings dating from the turn of the century. Stop into the Hot Pop Shop, an art and design-based store that peddles collectible toys, kitschy gifts (a color changing umbrella, floppy disk Post-Its, a ceramic handgun vase), accessories, and some clothing. Nearby Broadway Paper’s sleek warehouse space has an enviable selection of wrapping supplies, cards by high-end brands and a staggering array of custom stationery choices. Design Within Reach is perfect for Mid-century and modern design enthusiasts. Look for George Nelson lighting and clocks, Saarinen tulip chairs and other legendary items for the home by design heavyweights. Lela and Stephanie Horne have women’s clothing and accessories with slightly different offerings—Lela has a bit of vintage mixed in with their fashions; Stephanie Horne carries higher-end designers. For foodies a stop at the Milwaukee Public Market is a must for gourmet gifts. Two other niche shops include the Brass Rooster in Bayview for a carefully curated selection of men’s hats, shaving items and accessories, all set in a wonderfully merchandised, vintage-feel space. And a Milwaukee shopping trip wouldn’t be complete without stopping at George Watt’s for exquisite dinnerware, serving pieces and more by Nambé, Waterford, Wedgwood and Juliska.

Appleton: Fox Valley Finds

This chic city by the Fox River has a seriously cool downtown with a historic vibe. For the artist in your life make a stop at Avenue Art & Company where they sell any art supply they would need plus prints and gorgeous original art—most by local artists. If you want a break on your shopping expedition, check out The Fire, where you can make a handcrafted pottery piece for yourself or a friend. Aptly named Bellybeans is for moms-to-be who want funky and fun clothing, baby goods and Petunia Picklebottom’s cool diaper bags that look like stylish handbags. Although Lillians Shop is only open the first Thursday–Sunday of the month (plus selected dates in November and December; check their website), it’s worth the wait. Ridiculously affordable jewelry, scarves handbags and clothing await in a chicly merchandised space. Fair trade items used to be niche but luckily are now mainstream—and Globally Sound Fair Trade stocks fair-trade clothing, gifts, cards, jewelry, toys and more. Two Paws Up Bakery will make your pet loving relative or your own furry friend happy with their gourmet pet treats baked fresh in-house, pet pampering products and accessories. Love shabby-chic and reclaimed home décor? Then stop in to The Vintage Garden, a newly opened shop with hand-painted furniture, antiques and vintage pieces.

Madison: Choices in the Capital City

Madison’s shops offer something—literally—for everyone. Downtown is a great one-stop destination for gift-givers. Right off the Capital Square is Context, a haven for the fashionable male that’s been featured in Esquire and GQ. Capitol Kids is a Madison favorite for heirloom-quality toys as well as infant, toddler and child books, toys and games. Tabby & Jack’s Pet Supplies and Grooming has adorable dog and cat toys as well as holistic grooming supplies and food and treats—if you’re treating your best furry friend to a holiday gift, too. Walk down to State Street and check out Driftless Studio, a lovely historic space with original photography by the store’s owner and gifts for people of all ages—from baby to teen to adult. Across the street is the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s Museum Store, an award-winning shop with a stunning array of gifts including art glass, Pylones kitchen goods and handcrafted jewelry. While you’re on State be sure to stop by ReThreads (vintage and consignment), Little Luxuries (women’s accessories, home goods and delightful, quirky gifts), Pop Deluxe and the Soap Opera. Other worthy destinations off State include SERRV (fair-trade goods) and Zip-Dang (quirky, handmade accessories). Hilldale Mall on the near west side has a mix of chains as well as local gems Twigs and Playthings.

Door County: Great Getaway

The “Hamptons of the Midwest” isn’t just a summer destination—it’s a shopping must for the holidays, too (some stores have limited winter hours; check before you stop. All stores listed are open during the winter). In Egg Harbor find Patricia Shoppe, an ode to owner Erin Bosman’s great-grandma Patricia McGrath Lind, who owned a store in Chicago in the ’30s. Find contemporary clothing with vintage-inspired details as well as jewelry, scarves and shoes. Check out Sturgeon Bay’s Bliss for modern, chic décor as well as gifts for your interior design-obsessed friend. The adorable bears outside of the shop mark Sturgeon Bay’s The Dancing Bear, a wonderful store for the little ones in your life. For the holiday buff a stop into Tannenbaum Holiday Shop in Sister Bay is a must. Find collectibles for every holiday all housed in a one-hundred-plus-year-old church. Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery & Market in Fish Creek is your quintessential Door County experience—bring home your visit to your giftees with their handmade wines, baking mixes, jams, fruits, tons of cherry-themed gift boxes and more. Also nearby is Wilkins & Olander, a fun stop for girlfriend gifts. Look for Pandora jewelry, Switchflops, Karen Kane clothing or a Vera Bradley bag. And there’s no shortage of shops for food and cooking aficionados—try Door County Coffee & Tea (Carlsville), Door County Candy (Sturgeon Bay), Sweetie Pie’s (Fish Creek) and Cornucopia (Sturgeon Bay). Of course there are many more shops than listed here to explore—so have fun and shop away!

Shayna Miller is associate and style editor for Madison Magazine.