Cattywampus Design has finally found a home.
The search began last year, when former teacher-turned-shop owner Karen Waltz started looking for a future outside the classroom.
'I loved teaching. I still love it. I still enjoy working with the students I tutor. But education is not in a great place right now, and I just felt the need to just take some time off and kind of explore a creative side,' said Waltz, who taught special education for 20 years in Waukesha.
She focused on refinishing furniture, a hobby Waltz, a new grandmother, first picked up when was 18.
'I knew about chalk paint and the powdered milk paints, there are just all of these things right now that reinvigorated me. And, since I took the time off, I thought I'd get back into that. Then, I just met this community of people who did the same things, and I could see myself bringing these people together and running a shop,' Waltz said. 'I know retail is a tough, tough gig but I'm not afraid of hard work. I was working until 9 o'clock every night as a teacher, so I was ready to put in the time and effort. And I was just ready for a change.'
After selling at the Tosa Farmers Market and other street fairs, Waltz and a partner opened a shop in March 2015, hoping their combination of handcrafted and upcycled items would find a niche in Tosa.
Within six months, it was obvious the concept had caught on; despite her out-of-the-way nook between a Vietnamese restaurant and a gym, customers kept finding them.
'We could have worked hard every day trying to keep things going, but if the customers didn't respond the way they did we wouldn't have done so well,' Waltz said.
In January, Waltz decided to move about four blocks west to a new shop with two banks of windows readymade for showing off her revitalized finds. The store re-opened a month later.
'People really appreciate that we're recycling and upcycling and taking something that's old and making it beautiful again,' Waltz said. 'We've had customers who come in and say, 'It's like you're Pinterest right here!''
That reaction has led to everything from requests for custom kitchen cabinet work to classes, which Waltz offers three times a week. She's even added a sign-making class, which has opened the door to hosting bachelorette parties, with members of the wedding party making signs for the big day.
'People want an experience, they don't necessarily just want to buy a gift,' Waltz said.
Best of all, Waltz said, she's getting to support local artists.
'It brings together 40-plus artists, and the majority of them are Tosa folks or from Milwaukee, although we have artists from West Bend, Menomonee Falls. We have one from Ohio, one from Sweden. But they all have this unique desire to do something different, even if it's not their full-time job. They're looking for an outlet, a way to express themselves. It's a great community of people.'
JUST THE FACTS
BUSINESS: Cattywampus Design, 6123 W. North Ave.
TYPE OF BUSINESS: upcycled furniture and home décor
PEARLS OF WISDOM: 'Learning about Tosa has just been quite an experience. It has such a small town feel; the number of people out walking their dogs, even in the winter, or kids riding their bikes and walking by, it has the right feel for a shop like ours.'