Mom’s the word: Mother and daughter open stylish maternity shop in Kohler

By Bob Petrie
Sheboygan Press staff

Tarra Brotz of Kohler has a simple philosophy on maternity clothing. She wouldn’t sell what she wouldn’t wear.

So she does — right off the rack.

“Definitely, I love it,” said Brotz, a 29-year-old mom-to-be, of the stylish navy blue maternity dress she was wearing last week from With Child Maternity & Baby Boutique, next to Silk Road Oriental Rugs on the west end of The Shops at Woodlake in Kohler.

Brotz, who is due to have her first child in June, co-owns the store with her mother, Shelley Knepfel. The two opened the shop in February and looked for clothing that didn’t have the traditional maternity apparel appearance.

“We tried to pick things that were in style and have good materials, wear well, (and) wash well, because we tend to wear things quite often when we’re pregnant,” Brotz said. “And you want to be comfortable, yet you want to be trendy and stylish.”

The store caters not only to those who are expecting, but also has accessories such as designer diaper bags and clothes and shoes for children up to age 2.

A mom and mom-to-be shop

Brotz, who also teaches part-time at Sheboygan North High School in the culinary arts department, and Knepfel have been thinking about opening a maternity boutique for about 18 months, to fill a niche.

“It’s a good venture and she thought I had too much spare time,” said Knepfel, 48, of Plymouth, who last worked in the food service industry.

“We’re really enjoying this,” Knepfel said. “People are happy when they come in because they’re excited about being pregnant or they’re happy about buying baby gifts. It’s a happy atmosphere and it’s fun helping people look nice.”

You won’t find frumpy items like blue jeans with the sewn-in stretch panel here. Mom and daughter traveled to Dallas for a fashion trade show last fall to start acquiring their inventory, and tried to balance each other’s tastes in clothing.

“This is much trendier,” said Knepfel, who also is the mother of two boys. “It would be fun to be pregnant now (and) wear good clothes.”

Christine Carr, 57, owner of Artistic Décor in Sheboygan, embedded the store’s logo into the wall above the service desk, and also recently bought a pair of WeeSqueak shoes from With Child for her 15-month old grandson, Sam.

“They’re really cute,” Carr said of the shoes, which squeak with each step the child takes. “The nice thing is you know where the little kids are.”

Carr, who is a friend of Knepfel, said the store fills a nice niche in the area for clothes.
“I think it’s terrific,” said Carr. “I think they’ve done a really nice job of selecting quality merchandise, and they have a real nice selection of things that are pretty unique to this area.”

Store fills a clothing need

Brotz and Knepfel said it’s not easy to find maternity wear in the Sheboygan area, which is why they opened the store. Before, they said, shoppers had to travel to Milwaukee to a specialty clothes shop, find a small section of maternity clothes in a department store, or go online —where customers can’t try on what they buy.

“The community needed it,” Knepfel said, adding that tourists to the Kohler area have also stopped in to shop.

Some of the clothes, instead of winding up in a box following birth, can be worn afterward by moms, such as dress pants. The store also sells nursing wear. And if you’re one to announce the birth month of your baby to everyone, there are tops that read “Due in August,” or whatever month you’re due.

“We tried to find things for everyone, different shapes … we were trying to find things that were fashionable and comfortable, great materials and I think we did a pretty good job,” Brotz said.

Among the accessories they sell is the Peanut Shell, a baby sling made popular on the celebrity circuit, and the Stork Sak, a carryall diaper bag, with everything stuffed inside, including a changing pad.

“They look like handbags,” Knepfel said.

And at the counter are boxes of Preggie Pops, natural flavored lollipops and lozenges designed to keep morning sickness at bay.

“They work,” Brotz said.

After Brotz has her baby — she wants to be surprised as to whether it’s a boy or a girl — she’ll let Mom and a couple of part-time employees run the store for awhile, and then work her way back into working in the shop, bringing her newborn from time to time.