Q&A Karin Bennett

For 30 years, Cornerstone Shop & Gallery, in the heart of Lake Geneva, has been a shopping destination for local residents as well as visitors. Its eclectic mix of merchandise encompasses home décor and women’s apparel to one-of-a-kind artisan items such as ceramics, jewelry, and original paintings and prints from local and regional artists.

At The Lake recently caught up with co-owner Karin Bennett, who with her husband, Bruce, have been instrumental in the store’s evolution, meeting the changing needs of the marketplace and their customers. The Bennetts purchased the store in 2007, and they’ve carried on the tradition of this iconic retail venue.

Cornerstone Shop is not Karin’s first venture. She started her first business in Lake Geneva in 2004 and moved to the city a few years later with Bruce, after her daughter and son finished college.

Karin previously held a variety of corporate roles within marketing, project/account management, and business strategy and development.

HAVE YOU ALWAYS HAD AN ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT?

Absolutely! From the time I was 5, growing up in a small Michigan town, I was always launching businesses. I had the usual lemonade stand and I also had a newspaper route. I sold everything from greeting cards to garden seeds.

IS CORNERSTONE SHOP & GALLERY YOUR FIRST RETAIL VENTURE? WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION?

My first retail start-up was Artopia. We needed a better location which landed us at the Cornerstone Shop. My inspiration was my love for artisan talent and their work; I loved discovering new artist creations.

ARE THERE CONSISTENT DECORATING THEMES YOU TRY TO OFFER?

Themes are very important for decorating. We offer lifestyle choices which fulfill our customers’ needs. In spring, those who own second homes here are trying to get their homes ready for the season. We shop for colors and design trends, along with décor “looks” that are emerging. Of course, nautical will always be strong in the Geneva Lakes area, but we always make sure to refresh and reinvent the themes by bringing in new elements.

YOU’VE ADDED MORE WOMEN’S CLOTHING AND ACCESSORIES. WHAT PROMPTED THIS DECISION?

We’ve had a strong response to our clothing and accessories which influenced our decision to expand our lines. The Joseph Ribkoff clothing line was recommended to us and we fell in love! We also added some “one of a kind” lines that are exclusive to our store. Gradually the word got out, and clothing has just exploded for us. We have top notch sales associates who adore our customers and LOVE the clothing. Their enthusiasm and passion only enhances our relationships with our customers. We also have great partnerships with our vendors, and together, we continue to see tremendous growth.

WHAT’S THE KEY TO ENSURING THE STORE HAS THE RIGHT PRODUCT MIX EVERY SEASON?

The key is our customers! We ask for their thoughts and opinions, and we listen carefully. Over the years, Bruce and I have personally come to know many of our customers and we know what they are looking for. We also rely on our talented associates.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE HOT TRENDS IN HOME DÉCOR FOR THE SUMMER?

Rustic farmhouse, industrial loft and mid-century modern are strong trends. Gray hues, combined with pops of color such as teal blue and citrine, are very popular. The nautical primary colors, and water blues and aquas are still hot. And, our design team excels at putting these looks together.

WHAT ARE THE FACTORS THAT HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO THE SUCCESS OF CORNERSTONE SHOP & GALLERY?

Truly, it is the totality of the community, our great associates, our customers and the positive vibe of our store. Many people tell us it is their “happy place,” and that is the biggest compliment we can receive.

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