It isn’t common in today’s one-click, buy-it-now world for a successful online shop to take the leap from webpage to brick and mortar. Especially when that business, in just three years of existing, has gained social media followers in the tens of thousands from around the globe and the attention of editors from HGTV Magazine, Better Homes & Gardens, and Real Simple.
But if you are mother-daughter duo Vicki and Brooke Rawlins, it was a dream of owning a brick-and-mortar boutique that inspired the online shop Sister Golden – now one of Fish Creek’s newest businesses. In fact, the internet proved to be the perfect starting point for the venture.
Launched in 2014, Sister Golden began as a long-distance affair between Vicki, then a full-time artist in Chicago, and her daughter Brooke, who worked as a marketing specialist in San Diego, California. While building skills in advertising and marketing, Brooke decided to take a leap toward her dream of one day owning a boutique. So she did, using Instagram and a product she had always believed in: her mother’s artwork.
“Our house was always full of her huge canvases that she had painted and we had original art everywhere and cool art from different artists that she loved and it was always, I felt like, the coolest house on the block,” Brooke said of her mom’s artistic bent.
Just like that, Sister Golden was born. With more than 2,000 miles between them, Brooke and Vicki worked together to create an online shop featuring Vicki’s colorful art prints and a small selection of handcrafted home goods. Their skills proved to be the perfect match. As Vicki’s work grew to include her popular foliage art pieces, Brooke’s talent for photographing and marketing the work on social media led to the shop’s rapid growth. Their collection grew to include independent artists and craftspeople from around the world creating small batch, one-of-a-kind pieces of artwork, jewelry, accessories, baskets and home goods.
By 2015, Sister Golden had become Brooke’s full-time job and soon enough, the mother-daughter duo was in pursuit of a building to call their business home. As part-time residents of Jacksonport for more than a decade, the Rawlins are no strangers to the Door County retail scene, especially at the height of the summer season. For a number of years through high school and into college, Brooke worked retail at women’s clothier Fred & Co. in Fish Creek. She could not have predicted that one day, not too many years away, the building next door would be home to her very own boutique.
In November 2016, the former Santa Fe Shop gallery made way for the final phase of this longtime dream. After months of rearranging and making the space their own, Sister Golden opened its doors the first week of May. The bright, spacious shop welcomes guests into a carefully curated selection of modern, bohemian-inspired art, gifts and home goods, from woven African baskets and Peruvian pillows to handcrafted ceramic mugs and textured wall hangings. A gallery in back showcases Vicki’s art prints.
Many of the collections are accompanied by an artist’s statement while several promise a charitable impact through purchase, like MudLOVE, which provides a week of safe, clean water to an individual in need for every item sold, and Sand Cloud, which donates 10 percent of proceeds from their products to the protection of marine life.
In laying out the space, the duo agreed their focus was on creating an open, inviting space that showcased the talents of the artisans whose work fills their shop.
“We like the feel of the store,” Vicki said. “It’s kind of like how we live even with our own decorating. We didn’t want to do something where we have so many people jam packed and you feel like it isn’t celebrated or special.”
The public’s comfort with the shop was immediate, as Vicki quickly learned after their shop sign was placed on the front lawn.
“Everyday we have people taking pictures of themselves in front of the sign,” she said. “Literally everyday. Sisters. And I’m running out taking pictures of the sisters together.”
It is certainly a welcome reaction for Brooke and Vicki, as they now embark on a new chapter with Sister Golden that focuses on building relationships in their new community while encouraging others to think local. For Brooke, that has become her biggest goal.
“For people my age to come in and realize that they can get super cool, stylish pieces that aren’t necessarily breaking the bank and they’re made by someone that’s your age,” Brooke said. “There are coffee mugs here that are made by girls that are our age, and jewelry, and the craftsmanship is just incredible and it’s not necessarily that you’re spending so much money on it but you’re getting this stylish piece and it’s making you think about where your stuff is coming from. Even if you’re not like, ‘Ok, that’s it. I’m only buying handmade from now on. I’m never shopping at a big box store again.’ That’s not the goal but I think it’s to start people thinking about the art of mixing it, mixing something that’s handmade with maybe something that you go out and buy at Target, for example.”
Sister Golden is located at 4147 Main St. in Fish Creek. The store will host a grand opening this weekend, with refreshments and raffles. Hours are 10am – 6pm Friday through Sunday, and 10am – 5pm Monday through Thursday. For more information, visit SisterGolden.com or call 920.868.3046.