A match made in renovations

The original interior of the building shows through in the clothing shop with the original support beams and brick walls. Reagan Zimmerman photo

by Reagan Zimmerman

Have you ever seen a purple chicken or been to a store named after a donkey?

Anyone who shops at Violet & Company can say they have.

Not only is it a clothing store named after Violet the donkey, but it also has purple chickens in its backyard.

Owner of Violet & Company, Deana Ceman, is an animal lover but also an avid shopper.

Her need for new clothes is what inspired her to open the store three years ago.

“I came up with the idea for Violet & Company out of my own necessity,” the owner said. “I needed a place to shop for clothes in my hometown because I was tired of having to go all the way to Appleton to go to the mall.”

So, she opened the women’s clothing store in 2015 on West Huron Street in Berlin.

Violet & Company’s motto is “simply sophisticated.”

“I call this my dream closet, really,” Ceman said. “Everything inside this store is something I like.”

Ceman’s store was doing well at her original location on West Huron Street, but she felt like it was her time to switch it up after two years.

When searching for a new building with her general manager, Ashley Bartol, she was drawn to a 151-year-old flour mill at 146 West Ceresco St.

“We didn’t choose the building; the building chose us,” Ceman said.

With the building’s age, it required many renovations neither Ceman or Bartol knew how to do.

Designing the building wasn’t their expertise, but one loyal customer, Alex Kohlenberg, knew just the person.

Kohlenberg offered the help of her friend, Claire Maes, who owns Idee Interior Design.

Maes helped restore and decorate the building.

“The reason why this store looks so good is because of Claire,” Ceman said.

After a year and a half of renovations, Maes, Ceman Bartol and Kohlenberg had a building that was almost ready to be opened. The only thing missing was another business to fill an empty room connected to the store.

“I remember the first time Alex took me to Violet & Company,” Maes said. “When we left, we both thought there was something special we needed to be a part of.”

Both women wanted to stay involved with the business, so they came up with the idea of adding a homegoods store in the empty space.

“I did envision the separate area becoming something super cool and I really liked the idea of having it be a homegoods store,” Ceman said. “I didn’t have the time, energy or imagination for it, so I let them do it.”

Quinn’s Market, which was named after Kohlenberg and Maes’ two daughters, who share the middle name, opened in April of this year along with the new building.

The business only has been open for eight weeks and Maes noted everyone is still talking about it.

“It is becoming a destination,” Kohlenberg added. “[Opening a store] has always been a dream of ours, so it is nice to see your dreams become a reality, but to bring some character and life back into a town that I think used to be full of vibrancy is amazing.”

The joined business owners hope the stores will change not only the area, but lives as well, because they believe customers deserve it.

“Here, people go run their companies, they [are] mom and dad, they work for people and fix their own houses — those people want to come home to a space that is deserving of what they put into their day,” Kohlenberg said.

Ceman believes the same applies when someone comes in after losing weight or is going through a hard time.

“They deserve a new outfit or fitting pair of jeans,” Ceman said.

Kohlenberg and Maes also want every purchase to be special and make customers feel fulfilled or distinctive.

“I love being in a place that makes you feel good,” Maes said. “I want my home and other people’s homes and spaces to be a sanctuary.”

The four friends are thankful for what they have created because it has changed their lives, too.

They learn from each other and grow together.

“Everything about this has been super organic,” Kohlenberg said. “It almost feels like it is scripted because it has just been so easy.”

“It was one of those universe things that didn’t happen earlier in our lives because it was fate,” Maes added.

Ceman believes everything is happening for a reason.

A donkey named “violet” might just agree.