Sarah Schuster goes a step beyond the “specialty outdoor retail” classification for her two shops. She prefers “specialty outdoor lifestyle,” stressing the last word to make it clear that gear is not the focus.
With an eye toward Midwesterners enjoying summer days by the lake, tourists passing through, and leisurely paddlers, Clear Water Outdoor focuses on the marriage of function and fashion. The trail-to-town (or beach-to-bar) mentality is a priority, Schuster says, as she looks for items and apparel that can easily pull double duty. “We want things that you can wear all day long and you still look good for anything,” she says.
Schuster admits that the endeavor, which she started in 2015 and eventually resulted in two retail locations and three rental kiosks, was done on a whim. “My husband dared me to write a business plan and we were open three months later,” she said. But the boutiquey water-centric shop has had success catching up to its fast-moving customer base.
“I like to go to other stores and other industries,” says Schuster, who has a habit of visiting national park visitor centers to see what those tourists are buying, in an effort to bring the same type of items into her shop. “Sometimes people just want a cool hat and a chair.”
What new gear are you most excited about so far?
1. Vuori Cruz Boardshort
“I’ve liked these for a while, but they updated them, and now they have a huge range of colors and options.They’re gorgeous!”
2. Jetson Scooters Phantom Jet Cart
“I was doing loops in this thing. The price is reasonable, it’s new and different, and frankly, some of our customers have huge driveways, so I thought it would be super fun.”
3. Gorilly Goods Supernola Dragonfruit Lemon Zest
“It’s paleo and gluten free, has great packaging, a super taste, and I was excited to learn they’re from Wisconsin. It’s actually my lunch today.”
4. OneWild Earrings
“They’re made of leather so they’re super-lightweight. They’re like air! And they donate back to women’s and children’s groups, which is really cool.”
5. Charlotte’s Web Hemp Products Oils, Balms, Drinking Oils, Pills, Pet products
“I’m really excited to be on the forward motion of that industry in our state. Not to mention, it’s such a struggle understanding the new laws, and they were really clear about just saying, ‘Yes, it’s legal in Wisconsin.’”
This article was originally published in Day 4 of The Daily (summer 2018).