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Bluebird Boutique fills niche in Menasha

Manager said every inch of the shop is staged to bring inspiration to its customers

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September 7, 2022

MENASHA – Some people see the bluebird as a symbol of joy and happiness.

Tanya Stegal, owner of Bluebird Boutique, located at 850 Racine St. in Menasha, said she can be counted in that demographic. 

“Joy and happiness are the experiences we strive to create for our customers every time they visit,” she said.

The original store, known as Water Street Boutique, opened in New London in September 2015 and focused on women’s clothing/accessories and home décor.

“I started in upcycled furniture and crafts,” Stegal said. “I got back into painting/crafting, and we decided to open a brick-and-mortar store.” 

In 2020, she said an opportunity to expand arose in Winneconne, and in August 2020, the boutique’s second location (118 E. Main St.) opened its doors.

Knowing the Water Street Boutique name would not work for a boutique on Main Street, Stegal said a search for a new name began, with Bluebird Boutique coming out the winner.

Shortly after that, in 2021, she said she opened the boutique’s third location in Menasha at 850 Racine St.

Stegal, who also works as a sales rep for a gift line that services boutiques, said even though the New London and Winneconne locations were thriving, she decided her work/life balance would be more manageable having only one store – which prompted the closure of the New London store in May and the more recent closing of the Winneconne one.

Varied selection
Stegal said Bluebird Boutique, which has one full-time manager and one part-time sales associate, offers a varied selection of women’s clothing, ranging in size from small to 3X.

“We quickly learned we didn’t have enough revenue coming in with the furniture and crafts, so we shifted into a boutique,” Wendy Watters, who came into the picture in 2020 and now serves as the Menasha store manager, said.

Watters said she has worked in retail her whole life.

“I was living in Tennessee up until the COVID-19 pandemic hit,” she said. “When that all started, I moved back with my husband to New London.”

Watters said she’s known Stegal most of her life, growing up together in the Palisades area in Menasha, but only recently recrossed paths when she stumbled upon Bluebird Boutique. 

“I love boutiques, and there was a flag outside the business, so we stopped in,” she said. “I didn’t realize it was Tanya’s boutique.”

During their busiest time of the year (the fourth quarter), Stegal said she brings in an additional three or four people to handle the increased volume of business.

Stegal said merchandise on the floor varies from season to season, but includes Judy Blue Jeans, unisex graphic T-shirts that appeal to women and men, children’s products, jewelry, health and beauty items, live plants, hats, shoes, sandals, handbags, food items (including maple syrup products and sweets), books, greeting cards, candles and wind chimes.

She said even some of the upcycled-shelving units displaying goods in the store are available for purchase.

“We concentrate most on women’s clothing first and then accessories,” she said. “We’re bringing in more home decor and things that make people feel good. I first try to find merchandise that is U.S. made, then women-owned companies and businesses with a mission or that give back – those are our priorities.”

Watters said every inch of Bluebird Boutique is staged to bring a little joy or inspiration to their customers.

“The beauty of shopping in boutiques is they carry limited quantities of each item, so the chance of running into someone wearing the same outfit is less,” she said. “When you shop in boutiques, it can be pricier than a big box store, but you’re paying for something that is unique. We keep the price point fair. We’re able to do that because we’re not paying mall rent.”

Personal connections
Located in a smaller community, Watters said the team is able to give customers individual attention – whether they’re looking for a gift for someone or something for themselves.

“People come in here and say, ‘I need a gift,’” she said. “We’ll shop with them. When you’re in a boutique, it’s about building a relationship with customers. You have time to talk. That’s what a lot of people come in here looking for. They like to learn about what we have in the store and like the personal attention.”

Stegal said they get to know customers so well that when staff travel to various markets around the country to order merchandise for the following year, they often shop with particular people in mind – picking out items they know they’ll like. 
“We welcome new customers who want to indulge in retail therapy or want to come in and browse and enjoy the experience there,” she said.

Watters said the Bluebird Boutique has proven to be a source of joy for her.

“I love getting the doors open and talking to the people when they come in,” she said. “Creating personal relationships and letting people know that we’re here for whatever they need is my favorite thing. I’ve always been that way. It’s a fun and rewarding experience.”

Stegal said when she works on the shop floor, she hears positive feedback from customers.

“We’re exposing people to something they maybe wouldn’t have tried, or wouldn’t have tried a certain combination of an outfit on at a box store,” she said. “They want to know how to put things together. I see that on our social media (Instagram and Facebook) all the time. ‘Will you style this up for me? If I come in, can you pick out a few things for me?’ That’s a relationship we’ve worked out with our clients.”

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