From pottery seller to first-time business owner

Dana Miller has sold her products at the Shoppes of Port for years but when the opportunity arose to take over the store, she jumped at it

DANA MILLER HAS sold her pottery at the Shoppes of Port Washington for about two years but her role changed when she bought the business from Merton and Margaret Lueptow on Oct. 1. Photo by Sam Arendt
Kristyn Halbig Ziehm
Ozaukee Press staff

When Dana Miller moved to Port Washington two years ago, she began renting space to sell her pottery at the Shoppes of Port Washington.

She’s still selling her pottery at the downtown store, but now she’s the boss.

That’s because Miller bought the business from Merton and Margaret Lueptow on Oct. 1.

“They sent around a note saying they were planning on retiring and did anyone want to take it over,” Miller said.

When no one jumped at the chance, she did.

“It’s a great store,” Miller said. “But it was a really big step. I’ve never owned a business before.”

But, she said, the more she’s learned about being an entrepreneur, the more she enjoys it.

“The more I got to know the business, the more I liked it and decided this is what I want to do,” Miller said. “This is a fun store.

“I couldn’t see it closing.”

There haven’t been many changes since she took over, Miller said, but she’s looking to the future.

She’s working with three students at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon on creating a website for the business and creating a social media presence.

She’s also applied for and is one of six finalists for a Main Street Makeover through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

“I’m really excited,” Miller said. “I would love it. They come in and give you advice, business advice, which would be nice.”

Two winners will be selected for interior and exterior design improvements, and Miller’s got her project picked out.

She wants to revamp the checkout area of the business, which is at the front entrance.

“It really needs a facelift,” Miller said.  “It’s been like this forever.”

The winner of the contest is expected to be announced this month. The winning businesses will then work with the Main Street staff and consultants from Milwaukee-based RetailWorks Inc. on a renovation plan. In spring, that plan will be implemented  during a 24 or 48-hour construction plan.

The Shoppes of Port has been a mainstay of downtown since the Lueptows opened it in 2011.

Roughly 50 vendors rent space in the shop, offering a wide variety of arts and crafts, food, household goods, antiques and sports memorabilia for purchase.

Most of the vendors are local, Miller said, or they have local ties. For example, a South Dakota man sells rocks and geodes but he grew up in Port and his brother still lives here, replenishing the supply as needed.

Miller said that since she took over the shop, a few of the vendors have moved on, but that’s not necessarily bad news. It’s given her a little room to open up the aisles and displays so they’re a little more welcoming, and it’s opened up space for new vendors with different items to attract people to the shop.

“I am in the process of looking for more local artisans and crafters,” Miller said. “But I don’t want all the same things. Unique is good.

“I’m looking for something that I see and go ‘Wow.’ Something I can’t find anywhere else.”

But, she added, that’s more of a challenge than it might seem.

“It’s hard to find local artisans who do things that are different,” Miller said. “A lot of it is the same thing. I want something different.”

That’s part of the key to making the business work, she said. The shop attracts people from throughout the world, many of whom are drawn to the eclectic mix inside.

In addition to local residents, the shop draws visitors staying downtown, many of them in Port for business, weddings and charter fishing excursions.

For Miller, the Shoppes of Port is a natural draw. She’s enjoyed crafting throughout her life.

“I like to do anything from rock art to pottery,” she said. “I do a little bit of everything.”

Pottery, Miller said, is her favorite craft.

“It’s the love of my life,” she said, adding she especially enjoys hand forming her pieces.

She works part-time at Newcastle Place in Mequon in the activities department, sharing her crafting skills with the seniors who live there.

Miller also has a shop on Etsy to sell her pottery, but said she plans to shut that down and concentrate on the Shoppes of Port.

Miller said she’s considering some tweaks to her new business, but said that will likely come after the holidays.

And in the meantime, she’s hopeful that she will receive a Main Street Makeover — not just for the actual makeover, but for the business advice she would get from the organization.

“I think that would be really valuable,” Miller said.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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