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Exiting the fast lane

Calumet County couple fills niche, while achieving less-hectic life

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September 12, 2022

STOCKBRIDGE – Lori Leppin and her husband, Carl Cordes, said they always dreamed of jumping off the hamster wheel and creating a more laid-back career and lifestyle for themselves.

However, they said they never imagined that dream could become a reality, but it has.

In 2018, the pair transitioned from life in the fast lane to one in the not-so-fast lane, and said they couldn’t be happier.

Leppin and Cordes are the owners of Wild Chicory, a home goods store located at 100 N. Military Road in downtown Stockbridge.

“We’re transplants,” Leppin said. “I’m originally from Berlin, (Wisconsin) and Carl went to high school in Sheboygan. We were living in Fond du Lac right before we moved here.”

Leppin said she’s been involved in interior decorating for most of her adult life and also has experience owning retail.
“In my previous life, I owned three retail stores like this, in three different towns in Wisconsin,” she said.

Cordes said his background is in business.

“I’ve got a business degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Rochester-New York,” he said. “I worked for three large companies. I thought marketing would be my passion, but I don’t fit in with large organizations. This business is more my passion, along with gardening, cooking and self-sufficiency.”

When the couple moved to the Stockbridge area – which they describe as the quiet and pretty side of Lake Winnebago – they said they rented an old farm home so they could raise their own food and live a simpler life.

“We’ve been here 11 years,” Leppin said. “We took some time off first. I was still doing some interior design. I had some dedicated clients I did a lot of work for, but I still had my finger in the pot, so to speak.”

She said they also had a contracting business in Fond du Lac, which involved finishing work on properties, building furniture and decorating.

After establishing themselves in Stockbridge, Leppin said they decided to use those skills to create products for another local home décor, gift and furniture shop.

Eventually, she said she started working there teaching classes and creating displays.

Taking the leap
Leppin said when they discovered the vacant property on North Military Road in Stockbridge, they decided to take the leap and open a store of their own.

In order to accommodate both a showroom and a workshop, she said their landlord opened up the wall that separated the previous businesses to create one large facility.

“When we opened in 2018, we had little inventory because we don’t believe in debt,” Leppin said. “We literally built this from scratch. The first two years were the hardest (in part because of road construction in front of the building). We did fairly well during the (COVID-19) pandemic – we were surprised.”

For the most part, Leppin and Cordes said they run the shop on their own, with the exception of Leppin’s twin sister, who she said helps out occasionally.

What’s inside
Cordes said Wild Chicory carries a wide variety of products, including boutique women’s clothing, locally-designed and produced T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats, gourmet food, honey, afghans, mobiles, art, wall hangings, essential oils, crystals, throw pillows, outdoor décor, jewelry, macrame hangers, hand towels, kitchen items, candles, embroidered dish towels and vintage items, particularly glassware.

He said the vibe of the shop is modern rustic or modern farmhouse, with home décor being a broad term for what they sell.
Leppin said they also create a good portion of the products they sell.

“We do a lot of custom work for people,” she said. “We create custom furniture, and we rehab furniture. Carl builds tables, benches, islands and things like that. We have six dedicated consignment people and a handful of casual consignment people, and I do order items online to sell. We carry eclectic home décor. The majority of our sales are furniture and plants.”

Leppin said she has a talent for sewing and makes pillows, runners and other such items that they sell in the store as well.
She said the shop also included items from India, Haiti and Kenya.


 Lori Leppin said the majority of Wild Chicory’s sales are furniture and plants. Submitted Photo

“I find things that fit what I like,” Leppin said.

Cordes said his wife won’t buy something for the store unless she personally likes it or would have it in their home.

Wild Chicory is open Wednesdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Leppin said though they get solid support from locals, the majority of their customers travel to get there, whether it’s from Green Bay, the Fox Cities or from vacation homes along Lake Winnebago. 

She said they also have a number of clients from Chicago, vacationing somewhere in Northeastern Wisconsin, who stop in as well.

Right decision
The pair said, for them, switching life and career tracks turned out to be a gratifying decision.

“People love what we do and the style we show,” Leppin said. “It’s not easy. We don’t make a lot of money, but we make enough to support ourselves – we live simply. I don’t begrudge the people who like being on the hamster wheel, but we saw we weren’t getting anywhere. There wasn’t a point. We find great satisfaction in redoing a piece of furniture, and somebody finds it and falls in love with it. We keep our prices affordable so that everybody can afford it. We have time to be at home working in the garden, quilting, canning and chasing the chickens around the yard, or Carl can work in the workshop.”

Cordes said those things are important to them and other like-minded people.

“We have good, casual conversations with our customers about good food and canning and that lifestyle,” he said.

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