Ecology: A Business Model in a Name

Alicia Kersebet – co-owner of Ecology in Sister Bay – was raised with the value of having a relationship with the environment. Her parents, Nancy and Marty Drury, first housed the outdoor equipment and retail store in the basement of their Manitowoc home in 1972. Their philosophy from the start was to not only sell products that were made sustainably and durably, but also to encourage customers to develop their own relationships with natural resources.

Kersebet’s parents opened a second store at Sister Bay’s Country Walk Shops in 1984 to give Door County residents a locus for enhancing their connection to the county’s vast outdoor offerings. 

In 1999, Alicia and her husband, Joel, purchased the business and moved the store from Sister Bay’s Country Walk Shops to the village’s Old Town Hall. Along with their new ownership, the Kersebets expanded the store’s clothing and accessory lines while preserving the store’s foundational values: a love of the environment and a responsibility to protect it.

Today, Ecology is housed across from the Sister Bay Marina, and the goal of sustainably marrying nature and lifestyle through apparel and accessories remains.

Alicia Kersebet said it’s impossible not to be environmentally sustainable with a name like “Ecology.” Merriam-Webster defines the word as “the totality or pattern of relations between organisms and their environment.”

In addition to clothing, Ecology sells a wide selection of natural and organic bath and body products. Photo by Solomon Lindenberg.

“It’s just part of our responsibility,” she said. “There’s a constant conflict between owning a business and preserving the environment, but we all just have to do the best that we can.”

Kersebet said that a vast majority of the store’s apparel was made using organic or recycled materials.

“With my product selection, [offering eco-friendly clothing] is first and foremost,” she said. “Sometimes it’s not possible, but there is always a longevity and durability to what I buy.”

She said that offering a durable product is offering a sustainable product because it reduces the need to replace clothing, thus saving money and resources.

“I don’t like throwaway fashion,” she said. “I like being able to feel like I’m carrying things that people feel fashionable in while traveling and being outdoors. Throwaway fashion isn’t good for the environment or your closet.”

She also said it’s vital that the companies she buys from are transparent about how their products are made and with which materials. 

“I will only buy from companies that stand by their product because I want to feel confident in standing by the products I sell,” she said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, and if I didn’t have a company that stood behind me standing behind their product, it’s just not worth it to me.”

Recently, Kersebet has been having conversations with all of her suppliers about reducing the amount of nonrecyclable packaging they send. 

“You can talk about a product being 100 percent efficient, but as a small-business owner, I want to be able to say that, too,” she said. “I think it’s a conversation that everyone in the industry should be having.”

Two years ago, Ecology became one of seven Door County shops to pledge to reduce their carbon footprints and help address climate change by signing the Door County Climate Declaration. 

In signing the declaration, the entities committed to fostering innovation, encouraging efficiency, enhancing public health, creating new jobs and bringing technological advances to the marketplace, all with a mindset to slow climate change.

“It’s not only a responsibility to myself, but also to my kids,” she said. “I’m thankful to live in this environment here, and I think we all need to do the best we can do to protect it.”

Ecology’s sister shop, Base Camp Coffee, will be reopening behind Ecology in the summer of 2021. Joel Kersebet – who runs the coffee shop – also emphasizes a low environmental impact by using biodegradable to-go products, alternative milks and fresh herbs and produce from Hidden Acres Farm.