ANDY SORENSEN DISPLAYS a selection of the merchandise that is available at dear prudence, 210 Watson St., which opened this spring. Ian Stepleton photo
by Ian Stepleton
Ellen Sorensen and son Andy are Riponites at heart.
Though both were raised here, each left the community to work elsewhere for a few years.
Each longed to come back. One day.
That day has come.
Together, the mother-son duo last month opened dear prudence, a women’s clothing, accessories and jewelry store at 210 Watson St.
The shop will cater primarily to women 25 to 55, though they noted women of any age can find something they’ll enjoy.
The Sorensen duo is excited for what this opportunity means both for them and the community.
“It was time to come home,” said Ellen, who may best be known locally as the former head of the Ripon Area Chamber of Commerce.
He’d worked downtown in his youth, including at the former Flower Basket floral shop.
“I had been back this past summer,” he said. “… I was downtown looking at things, after the fire and Boca, trying to see where everything was. It’d been a while since I’d been home.
“I ran into Craig Tebon on the street, and he asked when I was going to come back and work on downtown Main Street again.”
Returning to Ripon? That was always a “someday” goal. But Tebon’s suggestion sparked an idea.
“We had discussed moving to another community but it was always a five-year plan. Then back to Ripon,” Ellen said.
“We knew we wanted to … make some changes. [But then] I had that thought in the back of my head: ‘Work for yourself,’” Andy said.
“So we decided that instead of waiting five years to come back, we should do it sooner rather than later,” Ellen added.
That return took the form of Dear Prudence. A Beatles fan, Andy named it after his late cat with a well-known Beatles song for her name.
“We shot around a couple different business plans. But talking to people in the Ripon area, it seemed like this was the biggest need: a retail clothing [shop],” Andy said.
“With the loss of Only Her, there was a need,” Ellen said, referring to a women’s clothing store that closed late last year, just across the street from where dear prudence will be located.
She noted, though, Ripon does have another women’s clothing shop, and that the two mesh well in downtown.
“We complement, and not compete, with Hamilton’s,” Ellen said.
The retail area at 210 Watson spoke to Andy as they searched for a location.
“It’s a beautiful space,” Andy said, noting what grabbed him was a special touch the building is known for. “I have to say the chandeliers didn’t hurt.”
They feed into the ambiance Andy hopes to create in the space.
“I want this space to feel like the walk-in closet every woman wants to have in their home: nice and relaxing; serene,” he said. “The chandeliers were the inspiration [for everything].”
Filling that dream closet will be an assortment of women’s clothing, accessories and jewelry.
“I think we’ll have a lot more interesting clothes than large chain stores. We have a lot of different shops we used as inspiration,” Andy said. “My mom has a very vintage, classic aesthetic, whereas I have more of a ’50s through Bohemian aesthetic, so between the two of us it will be a very interesting mix for the clientele.”
“Our business plan targets women 25 to 55,” Ellen said. “Of course we appeal to women on either side of that target population. The woman who wants comfort and style in a non-fussy way.”
Also important to the mother-son duo is to be selective in where their merchandise is made, and how it’s procured.
“We carry American-made and or fair-trade [products] whenever possible,” Ellen said.
“We are very proud we are offering [these] here,” Andy added. “… At least 50 percent or more are going to be fair trade or American made.”
Some items are not just American-made but handcrafted here, too.
“We have a woman in Fond du Lac who makes goat-milk soap,” Andy said. “We also have an artisan doing hats for us. And then I’ll be carrying jewelry from a Ripon High School class of 2000 graduate: … Jenna (Wallace) Mahshie. ”
Customers also recognize some of the lines that will be available at Dear Prudence.
“Many of the lines are lines carried by Only Her. Other lines are carried by boutiques in Egg Harbor,” Ellen said.
Even so, Andy noted they have taken care to find lines that no one else in the Ripon area offer.
“… You won’t see yourself coming and going on the street … we don’t want everybody wearing the same thing,” he said.
Ellen, meanwhile, explained clientele appreciate how they will are treated when they visit.
“Andy has a great deal of experience in hospitality,” she said. “We believe in customer service.”
Customers also are able to find affordable items in the store, too, Andy noted.
“I think it’s very important to remain at a competitive cost-point, so hopefully we can keep that Ripon consumer here and spending the same amount of money here, rather than spend gas money to drive over to Oshkosh or Fond du Lac,” he said.
“The price points are reasonable,” Ellen said, explaining some items are more expensive — but are of a quality to make the purchase worth the value. “Those are investment pieces and statement pieces.”
dear prudence will be open Mondays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Both Sorensens are excited to see it open — and to be working with each other.
“Andy was very supportive when I took an administrative job in another county. While I love my children unconditionally, I am also very proud of the men they have become. Both are terrific adults,” Ellen said. “If I am going to be in a business partnership, I prefer it to be with of either of my children or my daughter in law.”
“I’m very excited,” Andy said. “I never thought I’d find myself back in Ripon at this age … but now that I’m here I feel so at home; I’m so excited.”
For more information, call 896-0800 or visit Dear Prudence on Facebook.