SUPERIOR — A new shop on Tower Avenue, emFATic+, combines fashion finds and positive body image. Owner Kayla Erdmann calls the second-hand plus-size boutique, at 1308 Tower Ave., a safe space to take up space.
“I think as plus-size women, we spend the majority of our lives trying to shrink ourselves into other spaces, and so I wanted people to be able to walk in the door and know that there will be clothes that fit and knew that they would be able to navigate the aisles easily and not be bumping into things,” said Erdmann, who lives in Proctor.
Customers can expect ample-sized fitting rooms and chairs and benches that are rated up to 800 pounds (the typical chair, Erdmann said, is only rated for 250). Along with fashions in sizes 14-30, or 1X through 6X, the shop carries body-neutral gifts, pride flags and much more. Size is celebrated, not shoved into a corner.
“What was incredibly important to me is that the biggest sizes were more upfront,” Erdmann said. “As plus-size women we’re constantly relegated to the second floor, to the back corner, tucked away somewhere and there’s only like a little bit, and so I really wanted the fives and sixes to be what was inside the window.”
The back area of the store is being set up as a meeting space for up to 20 people, a spot to hold book clubs, tie quilts together for charity or host direct sales parties. Erdmann envisions it as a safe meeting space for size-inclusive yoga, health at any size speakers and more. A place where people can be “unapologetically themselves.”
“Everyone is welcome here,” Erdmann said. “You don’t have to fit in our sizes to be able to buy our gifts or, you know, just come in and visit or have a book club here.”
Store hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. The boutique opened Nov. 7 and Erdmann said she has received a warm welcome from neighboring business owners.
“I am very excited to have emFATic across the street from me,” said Angie Kiminski, who owns Angie’s Closet. “She will not only be a great addition to all the women-owned businesses (on) downtown Tower Avenue, but a great spot for me to refer ladies to and vice versa. Kayla is a great gal and we welcome her with open arms.”
“She just makes you feel so comfortable and she’s so easy to talk to. You know, when you’re a plus-size person, it can be very embarrassing, and she just takes that all away. It’s gone. You just feel good about yourself,” said Colleen Lampton, co-owner of Weeping Willow heartfelt gifts, across the street from emFATic+. “She’s gonna be a great addition here.”
Superior has a number of second-hand stores downtown, including Angie’s Closet, Earth Exchange and the Salvation Army thrift store. But Kiminski said there’s a need for a plus-sized store.
“I carry a small section of plus size, so it’s great that she can have a store solely for curvy women,” she said.
Although she’s been in sales most of her life, Erdmann was most recently the development director for the Head of the Lakes United Way. Her connections to Superior run deep.
“I love Superior. I feel like I’ve grown up here in a way. I have young parents and both of them went to UWS, but, more importantly, I grew up a gym rat at Supreme Courts,” Erdmann said.
She’s excited about the synergy the boutique can spark with nearby businesses, and had a good experience working with the Entrepreneur Fund to open the store.
“Wisconsin makes it pretty easy. You know, it’s a pretty seamless process,” Erdmann said.
The building, which has been a leather shop, games store and pet grooming business, was tailor-made for the business.
“This space really just lent itself to what I wanted to do, so I feel really fortunate. I think so much of getting a business going is finding the right location, and this was just perfect,” Erdmann said.
She also has a front-row seat for restoration work on the former Princess Theater, which is right next to the shop. Those who visit on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 25, will get a free gift with their purchase. There will also be daily drawing for a T-shirt during Small Business Week.
The new business is not a consignment shop, but people can drop off new or gently used plus-size clothes. No jeans or fast fashions are accepted. If Erdmann selects items for sale, she will give the donor 25% of the resale value in cash or 40% in a gift card to the store.