Audra Vande Zande of Waupun has enjoyed doing furniture refinishing, small remodeling projects, in-home styling, personal shopping, painting and general contracting for the last 10 years.
One part she hasn’t had as much fun with is running around, looking for what she wants and envisions.
So Vande Zande decided it was time to branch out and have a retail store full of her own favorite items to make it easier for her to help people with their homes.
She did just that as Fiddler Creek opened today (Wednesday) at 311 Watson St. in downtown Ripon.
Vande Zande summarized the interior design and home furnishing store as a place that carries products featuring a “mix of old and new.”
“I think that it’s really nice to have the patina of aged wood, metal, rust — character from products that have a history,” she said. “But I also know that 100% rustic doesn’t fit into a lot of people’s homes.
“There are a lot of people with new construction homes that want a more streamlined simple look, but they really like a farmhouse look or a boho look or a Scandinavian look, and adding those pieces in a little bit here and there, I think, really bring[s] out character in very flat walls, very shiny flat floors.”
Vande Zande also noted that her products are aimed to be affordable.
“I don’t want to be exclusive to an out-of-reach upper class,” she said. “I want to be able to serve everybody in the community. And I want anybody to feel comfortable coming in here, and being able to find something that they love.”
Being flexible to a customer’s price range is nothing new to Vande Zande. She has done a lot of consulting about remodels and makeovers, while trying to help clients accomplish it on a budget.
“Some people may want a kitchen remodel or a nice, fresh kitchen, but they don’t want to spend $20,000,” she said. “So I’ll help them, talk about budget and ways to do that, maybe painting the cabinets instead of replacing them or working with people that I know that have good connections and can do that at a reasonable price.”
In addition to the products Vande Zande will offer at Fiddler Creek, she plans on having the greenery that she carries available and wants to help customers arrange that look.
“I want you to be able to leave here with a complete look; [that] is really important to me rather than have to hit five other stores in order to decide what you’re going to put into your hand-carved bowl or your beautiful new glass vase,” the Fiddler Creek owner said. “I want you to be able to leave here and take your purchase and just put it out.”
Vande Zande noted she also will do some virtual styling, where people send her areas of their home that need attention and she looks at it in her store and can help them.
Another service she provides is going into customers’ homes and using what they have or taking what they want that’s new and making everything work for them.
“It’s kind of a refresh of your home without having to completely redo it,” Vande Zande said.
She is no stranger to these types of projects as she has been doing them for about the last 10 years.
“I was doing a lot of projects, and then kind of went to … only if people would seek me out I did it and then I’ve gotten a little bit busier in the last year doing consulting work,” Vande Zande said.
During that time, she called her business “House of Mi,” but noted nobody knew how to pronounce it.
And then as Vande Zande was exploring options for a retail store, she decided a brand change would be a good idea. She ultimately decided upon Fiddler Creek as a result of growing up on Fiddler Creek Road in Nebraska.
When deciding upon a location for a retail store, Ripon jumped out.
“Ripon has always been a favorite place of mine to bring out-of-town friends and family for local shopping and eating and surrounded by great communities and there’s a lot of good support, and a lot of draw to the area,” she said on what was attractive about the city.
Vande Zande looked at another building in downtown Ripon this winter, but wasn’t ready yet to commit to opening her own retail store. Then, when she saw 311 Watson St. become available this summer, she felt like it was the perfect fit for her.
“I thought that being on this block was really a good opportunity, between Js, Mugs, American Alchemy; they’re really staples of the community and the shops down here stand out a little bit more,” she said, noting the renovated Mapes Hotel also made it more attractive.
While Vande Zande liked the location, there was a lot of work that needed to be done to turn the former Dabble Arts Studio into Fiddler Creek in time for today’s opening.
Among the changes, which building owner Daniel Volkmann of Treehaus Holdings helped with, include extending the front window platform for a bigger display area; repainting the interior; taking out a half wall, cupboards and sink; adding and replacing lighting; installing a fireplace; freshening the floors; putting up a new awning outside and giving the outside a new paint job; and exposing the metal columns on sides of the door outside.
She also custom made or designed her display areas, or hand-picked them from local vendors.
Her hope is that Fiddler Creek can provide patrons and visitors a fresh idea on what they can come to Ripon to experience.
“I know that there’s a lot of people who love what Ripon has to offer right now, but they sometimes are looking for a different type of product to balance out their homes, or they’re looking for help in designing part of their homes or just picking out paint colors…,” Vande said. “I’m hoping that I can create some really good relationships with people in the area that they know that they can come and take advantage of what I have to offer.
“I hope that I can stay around Ripon for a really long time and evolve with the community and maybe draw some new people in that are looking for something fresh.”
Fiddler Creek will be open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 9 to 5.