EAST GULL LAKE -- When the Sunbonnet Shop at Madden's Resort opened in 1953, it was the brainchild of then-teenagers and sisters Judy and Peggy Madden.
Along with their mother, Peg Madden, the trio opened the shop after the two daughters bothered their mother enough that she finally gave in and agreed to open a clothing shop at the resort.
This year marks the Sunbonnet Shop's 50th anniversary, and the store continues to sell women's casual and sport clothing. Judy Madden Perrizo owns the store. She took over ownership completely in 1968, after working at the store in a variety of capacities since age 13.
Sunbonnet Shop women today gathered around Judy Madden Perrizo (center) are present manager Vicky Randall (left), longtime manager Joannie Schultz, Doris Moede and bookkeeper Patty Hillstrom.
The store, located in the Village Emporium building just inside the gates of Madden's Resort, has endured for 50 years because of the commitment to customer satisfaction, said Perrizo, though it has become harder as more competition springs up nearby.
"When we first opened, we were rare," said Perrizo. Now though, with the growth of golf in the Brainerd lakes area, most courses have their own golf shops, and both Pequot Lakes and Nisswa have become destination shopping hot spots, said Perrizo. While most customers at the store are resort guests, Perrizo said she sees local residents stopping in on a regular basis.
The idea for the store came about because Perrizo and her sister liked to shop. The two thought it would be nice to have a women's clothing store at the resort when they were teenagers. Their parents finally gave in and helped them open the store, but the sisters were the main ones involved in the operation, ordering items and maintaining the store.
Peg Madden (left) opened the Sunbonnet Shop at Madden's Resort in 1953 at the urging of her daughters, Judy and Peggy.
The store originally was situated in Lumbertown USA, which was owned by Perrizo's parents. One of the buildings in Lumbertown, an historic lumber industry restoration near the resort, was the Sunbonnet Shop. The name was chosen by Perrizo's mother because she felt it fit the theme of Lumbertown.
Perrizo started at the shop as a clerk, and modeled various fashions for resort guests in mini fashion shows. She took over ownership in 1968, the same year the store moved to its current location at the Village Emporium building. Lumbertown closed in the 1990s, after Perrizo's mother died.
The small store takes up space on both sides of the main hallway in the Village Emporium, just inside the main doors. The store has remained virtually unchanged since it moved to that location, in terms of interior design. Two large, sculpted wood arches frame the main area of the store, both taken from the Spaulding Hotel in Duluth after it closed, just in time for the opening of the Sunbonnet Shop in the Village Emporium.
Young model Judy Madden displayed Sunbonnet Shop fashions in the 1950s and '60s, often during shows around the Madden Inn outdoor pool, the first of its kind at a Minnesota resort.
The clothes, however, change with the seasons. The store is open the same time as the resort -- from the end of April through the end of October. But Perrizo starts planning for the season early, attending the Los Angeles market show in January, which she said is "the most fashion forward market for casual sportswear."
Perrizo hired Joannie Schultz to manage the Sunbonnet Shop when she bought the store, and Schultz remained manager for more than 30 years, only recently handing over the duties to Vicky Randall. Schultz is still involved with the store, however, attending shows with Perrizo and helping in the selection and buying of clothing.
"You have to be very careful about what you select," Perrizo said of buying items for the store. "It takes up to a year for those styles to hit the Midwest. We hope the clothes we select give us an advantage."
Perrizo said that while she is always looking for up-and-coming fashions for the store, she tries to select clothing that will not reinforce the stereotyped image of expensive resort shops. "The word 'resort' has bad, snobbish connotations with people. I don't think that's what we are," said Perrizo. "People can wear what we sell in Minneapolis and the Cities or up here."
Perrizo wants to celebrate the store's 50-year anniversary, and later this summer will hold a sale with items 50 percent off. "Fifty percent off for 50 years," said Perrizo.
The Sunbonnet Shop at Madden's has endured 50 years, more than one move, and changing styles and trends. Perrizo said she hopes the store's commitment to customers will help it to continue for many more years to come.
"It's a happy industry, by and large. People come in here in a good mood, and as long as your clerks are in a good mood, they'll continue to come back."
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