Retail Profile: Grand Fête
Location: Hudson, Wis.
Founded: May 2017
Co-owners: Kay Timm, Jane Wegand and Lynn Ulrich
Square Footage: 1,800 sq. ft.
Rent or Own: Rent
The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes a grande fête as a way “to honor something with a large party or public celebration” and that’s the mood the trio of owners of the Grand Fête in Hudson seek to set with their customers.
Located at the first stop in Wisconsin once you cross the St. Croix River from the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., Hudson is a “foodie town,” says Kay Timm, one of the co-owners and a former housewares executive who has done stints with Lenox and Zwilling J.A. Henckels.
Timm joined forces with a former Lenox co-worker Jane Wegand (who also worked for Dansk) and Lynn Ulrich, a social media maven Timm met locally, to open Grand Fête last May. Their goal was to serve as a source of kitchen and tableware for their customers’ grand fêtes.
The three split up duties with Wegand doing the buying, Timm working as the “brick and mortar person” responsible for merchandising and Ulrich managing social media.
“It is a great combination,” Timm says. The three also opted to sign up for the H.T.I. Buying Group as a way to join forces with other retailers in buying strength, Timm says.
Located in a scenic downtown neighborhood, enticing because “it is very walkable,” the co-owners play on their prior tabletop experience to boost entertaining as a merchandising theme. Timm herself had owned a restaurant in town prior to opening Grand Fete, and says she benefits from being involved in the community.
“I was in business in town for eight years prior to this, so I know a lot of the chefs who walk through our door,” she says. Timm notes the local culinary talent is a boon for the store’s cooking class program, as is the combined “60 years of tabletop experience” she and Wegand have from their years at Lenox and Dansk.
“Given our tabletop background, we incorporate the concept of entertaining into our merchandising,” says Timm, who is largely responsible for setting the stage within the store. “We have dinnerware, both casual and higher end, and we work with consumers non-stop to help them set up events in their homes.”
To that end, the trio of owners have also stocked the store with a host of food items ranging from olive oils and vinegars to a wide assortment of specialty teas and use the store’s demo kitchen to create samples to give customers a chance to taste the wares.
The owners also look to set the store apart from mass merchants and online retailers by stocking a wide range of locally-made and American-made products, Timm says. They have cleverly rebranded several local teas to boost the made-in-Wisconsin appeal; for instance, a blueberry green tea was renamed “Wisconsin Blueberry,” which Timm says became a best seller.
The demo kitchen also does double duty, pressed into use for cooking classes often taught by the many chefs in the Twin City area. Timm herself is no stranger to the stove, stepping up to teach classes on occasion. Teaching classes helps bring the concept of entertaining to her customers and helps move product.
“I do classes and events like bridal parties, gadget parties and women’s nights out, where we prepare food using various kitchen tools. I get customers involved with using all kinds of gadgets and then they get to eat the food they have prepared,” she says.
Timm says those fêtes are fun, “And a good way to sell gadgets. All you have to do is get the gadget into their hands. Having events is an important part of our business.”