It’s the kind of place that forges your strongest, most precious memories. My family began coming to the beautiful Wisconsin peninsula when I was a kid. Decades later, it remains our favorite retreat. My husband proposed on the shores of Lake Michigan, we tied the knot in a Sturgeon Bay church, and I can’t wait to watch my son discover the magic of Door County for himself. (I’ll be posting about my favorite scenic views soon, but it was simply too cold to get the necessary photos… hopefully next month!)
From its jaw-dropping natural beauty—think 300 miles of natural shoreline—to its uniquely artistic shops and restaurants, Door County is undoubtedly a tourist magnet. However, to fully understand its merits, you need to hear the stories of those who make their permanent homes and livelihoods here.
People like Jennie Bexell, owner of the popular Sister Bay boutique Spot. She recently shared her perspective on Door County living with me and a preview of what’s new for spring. (Isn’t this maxi gorgeous?)
Bexell’s shop is indicative of most Door County retail. Unique and quirky, it’s an antidote to the “Big Box” experience. She prides herself on offering artistic clothing, gifts and accessories you won’t find at the mall.
In fact, you’ll hear a similar refrain from most Door County businesses. By design, chain concepts are exceedingly rare north of Sturgeon Bay. While there is no set rule against them, local plan commissions reject most national names to keep the quaint character of the county alive. But I digress…
As Bexell tells it, Door County’s natural beauty is second to none, but “it’s the people” who make it home.
What does she mean? Well, spend any amount of time in the peninsula and you will quickly discover an entirely new meaning of the word neighborly. You see, life slows down a bit here. People set aside their cell phones for genuine conversations. They ask about your day and truly care about the answer. Businesses build each other up, rather than viewing the shop across the street as competition. Warm and welcoming attitudes are the norm.
Originally from Sweden, Bexell’s Door County experience began in the service industry. She worked at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant, famed for its grass roof and the goats that “mow” it. Later, she waited tables and tended bar, working multiple jobs to build the funding and experience she would need to launch her own venture.
Bexell opened Spot in 2012, added online sales in 2014, expanded in 2016 and has even more in store for Sister Bay visitors this summer. As for the name?
“I said I wasn’t going to open shop unless I found the perfect location,” Bexell said. “I did, but thought ‘Spot’ was better then ‘location.'”
The thing that really strikes me about Spot is its range. Bexell clearly has a knack for selecting items that appeal to women of all ages, tastes and body types. Curvy, tall, plus, athletic? She has you covered. I went shopping at Spot with my mom and aunt. We have very different tastes in clothing, but each found an outfit we couldn’t live without. Best of all, you know you are getting something distinctive that will remind you of your time in Door County.
Given her job, you might think Bexell lives and breathes fashion trends. Nope! Although she loves color and design, her primary objective for clothing is comfort. In fact, she won’t carry anything in Spot that doesn’t pass the comfort test. Doesn’t that just fit Door County’s casual resort vibe to a T?
This adorable jumpsuit is a perfect example of Bexell’s comfort-focused approach. It’s easy, breezy and cozier than my pajamas. Plus, can we talk about the fun orange tassels and pockets? In my opinion, details make the outfit!
While we’re dishing on jumpsuits, here’s another favorite. The print is so unique and the tassels really add drama to the back. Can’t wait to wear this one for a party!
The other thing you will notice about Spot is the surprisingly modest price point. As Bexell explains, it’s intentional. She makes her buying decisions carefully to ensure Spot is affordable enough for everyone, tourist or local. Considering how unique these pieces are, I was certainly expecting to pay more.
In addition to jumpsuits, you’ll find plenty of darling dresses this spring. How fun are these bicycle and bird prints? The cut and style of these dresses felt very vintage 1960s to me—and I love that decade! There is something so feminine and flirty about the shape.
Last up, a casual off-the-shoulder top with exquisite detailing. This was one of many unique tops at Spot. Bexell makes it tough to choose! The red embroidery is just gorgeous and the tassels really amp up the fun factor. I’ll be pairing this with jeans and skirts this summer. It’s so versatile!
I couldn’t wrap things up with Bexell without asking for a few Door County insider secrets. If you’ve never been to the peninsula before, she highly recommends a trip to the ferry dock at the tip of the Door. The views are incredible! Also, be sure to go on a few hikes while you visit, she says.
Door County has five state parks for hiking, camping, boating, swimming, fishing—even golfing! You’ll find observation towers at Peninsula and Potawatomi; the state’s highest sand dunes at Whitefish Dunes; swimming beaches at Newport and Whitefish Dunes; and an historic boat house on Rock Island.
When the weather pushes you indoors, Bexell counts these shops among her personal favorites:
Need more Door County recommendations? Comment below! I could go on and on about this Wisconsin travel gem.
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