Meet Your Good Neighbor Front Porch Series: Chauette Home & Fashion
When Sue Bakke was considering moving her women’s clothing boutique from rural Paoli to Middleton, it was a big decision that led her to a simple act.
She sat on a bench.
“I watched how many people walked down the street and I observed,” she said. “Was there enough foot traffic (in Middleton) to support a higher scale boutique? What I saw really excited me. I saw a future here.”
Inspired, Bakke moved her business, Chauette Home & Fashion, to a city she could see was vibrant and on its way up. Chauette has been in Middleton since, and is now located on the first floor of the historic Middleton Opera House.
“I get excited every day I walk in the door,” Bakke said.
Many boutiques, Bakke said, tend to stock items that are in muted colors. Chauette is not one of those stores.
“I love brighter colors,” Bakke said. “It’s kind of fun to go in (to Chauette) because it makes you look good and it makes you feel good. It’s not boring.”
Chauette’s name comes from a French slang word meaning, “great,” or “cool.” It carries a full line of women’s fashion, including shoes, purses, and outerwear. It also has a selection of housewares, greeting cards and gifts. Bakke said her customers range in age from women in their 20s to their 80s and she has many loyal customers.
“I try to buy various lines,” she said. “Some are more contemporary, but I also have more traditional ware.”
The store carries designers like Karen Kane, Nic & Zoe and Joseph Ribkoff.
Chauette’s housewares also include a variety of brands, including Juliska tableware — the store is one of the only retailers in Wisconsin to offer the line.
“You can come in and buy your whole kitchen’s dinnerware, including your placemats — everything,” Bakke said.
When the pandemic put a temporary pause on in-person shopping last year, Bakke worked with an employee to put the store’s offerings online. She also began doing curbside pickup and delivery.
“It really helped because women could still shop (when the store was closed,” she said. “It really helped.”
Bakke never went to school for merchandising or design — she’s completely self-taught. But she was always meant to be in this business. Back when Bakke was in high school, she designed and sewed her own clothes and she also started a small business reselling clothing.
“Obviously I’ve been thinking about this a long time and I love it,” Bakke said. “It’s hard for me to think about doing anything else.”
Chauette Home & Fashion
1827 Parmenter St., Middleton, WI 53562
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Monday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.