Sometimes an idea is so good that it takes on a life of its own.
That is the case with Ashland's Lil' Red, a spinoff of the Red Bicycle gift shop at 707 Main St. W.
Lil' Red is located just down the block at 618 Main St. W., and is actually three stores in one, featuring products from Red Bicycle Furniture, Kelly & Crew Designs and INDIE home decor.
Owned jointly by Susan Lee and Kriss Weber, both of Ashland, who are also the owners of Red Bicycle, Lil Red grew out of a suggestion from Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mary McPhetridge that the two operate a pop-up store — a temporary seasonal business — for the 2018 Christmas season to provide more buying opportunities for downtown shoppers.
"It operated for three months in another store, and it went pretty well," Lee said.
The location wasn't ideal for the merchandise they offered, but still, the operation showed promise and the two determined to seek a location closer to the Red Bicycle. A spot just a block away from their original store became available, and Lee worked out a rental deal with owner Tom Casey.
Soon afterwards, one of Lee's friends, Kelly Kirchner, who operates the Kelly & Crew Boutique in Bayfield, contacted her.
"She's been wanting to get a clothing store here in Ashland too. People keep asking for it, so I thought we could have her come in and share the rent," Lee said.
Close on the heels of that move, another friend, Melanie Bush of Marengo, owner of INDIE home decor, came on board after plans for her to start a store on her own fell through. So one storefront has come to provide retail space for three different but complementary operations, each attracting a different clientele. Thus Lil' Red offers handmade, restyled, found and vintage gifts — anything from repurposed items to handmade baskets, jewelry, hats, original paintings and pottery, all from local artists and crafters.
"Having both stores, Lil' Red and the Red Bicycle, you can tell people if hey didn't find it here, just go over there — you can point at it," Weber said.
"We call it a unique boutique," Lee said. "In a boutique, you see clothing and furniture and decor that kind of all fit together, and this just happened to be similar styles when it all fell together."
Lee said she and Weber have worked hard to give Lil Red a unique character.
"I have been to shops in places like Wisconsin Dells where all the shops are the same, the same exact T-shirts, whatever. I wanted a place that was different and unique, appealing to a broad range of ages and people," she said.
It is a fair to call the place quirky. Along with repurposed furniture, Red Bicycle sells things like Hawaiian shirts for dogs, while Lil' Red features gently used clothing, handcrafted items and seasonal specialties as well as furniture. Both stores are dog friendly.
"We take pictures of dogs and post them on Facebook," Lee said.
Lil Red is marking its first anniversary this month, and Lee said business has been surprisngly good.
"You get a little nervous every time you start a new adventure, but I think it has been going really well," she said.
Lil' Red is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The store will be the location of an Ashland Chamber of Commerce Christmas Open House on Saturday, Nov. 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.