• WisBusiness

Trumble: Former tourism secretary opens Dells’ fashion boutique

By Brian E. Clark
For WisBusiness.com

WISCONSIN DELLS -- Kelli Trumble, former head of the state Department of Tourism, isn’t one to sit still.

Trumble, who earlier in her career ran the Wisconsin Dells Visitors Bureau and then founded the Sundara Spa, opened the Alpha Beta Karma women’s apparel store in the River District of her hometown late last year. She also recently launched an e-commerce site featuring the clothing and accessories sold at her new store.

“I’ve had the good fortune to go through several phases of transformation in my own life,” she said. “And now I’m re-inventing myself again, which is so much fun, with a fashion boutique.”

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Trumble’s store, at 212 Broadway, is in the River District of the Dells. She calls it “part Parisian market and part SoHo,” an artistic section of Lower Manhattan. Her boutique is just four blocks from the Just A Game Fieldhouse, which seats more than 1,700 spectators and provides a steady flow of shoppers.

“Alpha Beta Karma features hip, contemporary fashion and I’m sourcing mainly from designers on the East and West Coast,” said Trumble, who opened the store with her husband Ben Borcher, a third-generation Dells retailer and former mayor of the town.

Though the store aims for high fashion, she said it is also pocketbook friendly.

“I’m really conscious about that when I am traveling and doing our buying and putting the mix together, whether it’s an easy top to change an outfit or a handmade piece of jewelry.”

Trumble said she was pleased to return to the Dells after her four-year stint in Madison as a part of Gov. Jim Doyle’s cabinet.

“I’m a native,” she said. “Every time I think about where to go as an entrepreneur to open a business, my heart comes home to the Dells. It’s been a wonderful fit.”

She said she was delighted to open her boutique in an 1880s-era building and join other businesses in the River District such as Artistic Expressions and the High Rock Café that are trying to create a “very cool” shopping experience in downtown Wisconsin Dells.

Trumble said she gets some of her customers from families that are visiting water parks during the day and then looking to explore the Dells in the afternoon or evening to dine or indulge in some “shopping therapy.”

But Trumble credits the sports fieldhouse as one of the main reasons her store and the Dells’ downtown are doing well in the off-season.

“We are drawing all kinds of sporting events to the Dells with the fieldhouse,” which she said underwent a major expansion last year and now draws in tournaments.

“So we’ve got lots of moms who are coming in and doing some power shopping in between games, whether it is basketball, or whatever the tournament may be.”

Trumble said she the fieldhouse is having a major economic impact on year-round tourism for the Dells.

“A store like Alpha Beta Karma may not have been able to be open year-round in our river district a few years ago,” she said. “But we have, though we are on seasonal hours until we get into spring break. That means we are employing people and driving more taxes into the economy in this area, so it is very positive.”

Trumble said her store covers about 5,000 square feet on the first floor of a two-story building. If things go well, she said it could expand to the second floor. She and her husband also run the Winnebago Gift Shop and Bailey’s Landing in the Dells.

“We are busy retailers,” she said with a chuckle.

Looking back at her tenure as head of the Department of Tourism, Trumble said she is pleased that economic impact research efforts she pushed are making their way into the Wisconsin travel industry.

She also said she is also proud of the long-term plan her agency developed with tourism media around the country to get print and electronic outlets to cover “all that we have to offer in this state.”

In addition, she said she worked hard to bring best-business practices to the agency and focus on marketing the state, “creating a point of difference for Wisconsin.”

Trumble also had praise for her successor, Stephanie Klett, the former host of the Discover Wisconsin television and radio series.

“She is doing a very good job,” Trumble said. “What a cheerleader for the state. She has quite a team working really hard to serve the people of Wisconsin and the tourism industry.”

Trumble said she also was pleased her old agency got a $2.5 million budget increase last year, mainly to fund additional marketing efforts.

“When I was serving as secretary, we were going through a difficult recession,” she said. “Everyone had to share in those responsibilities.

“We showed through the economic impact research that for every dollar that is spent on tourism marketing, we are creating jobs, sustaining jobs and building tax base. For tourism to be recognized for economic development, that’s really important.”

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