Purple Turtle’s circuitous journey ends in Port

Woman who first opened shop featuring work of Midwest artists in community of 66 people finds a new home in city by the lake

A WIDE VARIETY of items made or designed by artists fill the walls and tables of the Purple Turtle at 184 E. Pier St. The shop opened several weeks ago, just in time for the holidays. Photo by Sam Arendt


Ozaukee Press staff

Amanda Scholz has taken a roundabout journey to opening her Port Washington shop, the Purple Turtle Artisan Collective.

But she’s at home among the artisan produced and designed products she sells in the cozy shop at 184 E. Pier St. just off Franklin Street.

“They’re all made in the U.S., with an emphasis, definitely, on Wisconsin and the Midwest. That’s important to me,” Scholz said.

“It’s important to me to support other small businesses, artists and makers and get their work seen in sustaining ways.”

The products she sells include a variety of pottery, jewelry, glass pieces, candles, soaps, cards and artwork. There are fiber pieces and supplies, including wooden crochet hooks and knitting needles.

And for the holidays, there are plenty of ornaments and stocking stuffers.

But her path to Port Washington has been circuitous.

The Brown Deer native got her degree from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in 2007, then traveled to the Twin Cities, where she worked a number of jobs, including stints in a bike shop and lighting store, before moving to Stockholm, a small community on the Wisconsin-Minnesota border.

“You find ways to reinvent and create and survive,” Scholz said. “It was the whole debate over whether you live to work or work to live. I was looking for something more.”

She opened the Purple Turtle in Stockholm in 2016, choosing a whimsical name that contrasted with the rather serious names of the other businesses in Stockholm.

Purple, she said, is her favorite color, and a turtle is a totem animal to her.

“I love the idea of the Iroquois creation legend (which says the earth was created on the back of a giant turtle),  and I love the idea you carry your home with you. I’ve had a lot of homes,” Scholz said.

But, she said, it was difficult to operate her business throughout the winter in a town 1-1/2 hours from the Twin Cities.

“How do you get through winter in a city of 66 (people)?” she said.

In 2019, she began doing pop-up shops throughout the Midwest that lasted from four days to one month.

“It was a little crazy,” Scholz said, noting she operated five pop-ups in three months.

Then her mother was in a serious accident on I-41.

“It made me want to come home,” Scholz said, noting her brother and his family also live in the area.

She opened a shop in Brown Deer in 2019, but then the pandemic hit and she closed the store in spring 2020. That fall, she closed the Stockholm shop as well.

She made ends meet by working for Fiddleheads, managing several of its stores, and more recently began doing drywall and painting for her boyfriend’s company in Port.

But, Scholz said, she never gave up on the idea of reopening her store.

“Port speaks to things that are important to me in a community,” she said. “It’s got that small-town vibe, but it’s close to amenities. It just feels like home.”’

She put the idea of opening a shop out on Facebook and people responded, Scholz said. Her landlord reached out to offer her the space.

“My artists were saying, ‘Yes, please do it,’” she said. “New artists reached out. The sails filled and away we went. Here I am, two weeks open.

“It feels like I’m where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I feel like I needed this to find my community again.”

The fact Port has a number of other gift shops that include artists’ works made her a little nervous, she said.

“There are some really great shops here,” she said. “But there are so many great people creating too. We each have different things.  There’s a synergy.”

Scholz, whose degree is in technical theater, said she’s drawn to the works of artists.

“It means more because when you make something, there’s a little piece of you in it,” she said. “Giving a platform to these artists to carry that forward is important, honoring what we can do and our talents.”

A fiber artist herself, Scholz said she enjoys visiting craft and art fairs and learning the story behind the artists’ works.

She talked about glass artist Jeffrey Stenbom, a veteran who uses his art to help connect with other veterans.

“He says it saved him from his PTSD,” she said.

People have been receptive to her shop, Scholz said. She’s only open Thursdays through Sundays right now, but said in spring she will open full time.




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