Destination for Specialty and Boutique Clothing Lines

The Cornerstone Shop & Gallery is a 10,000-square foot Lifestyle Store in downtown Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. It was established in 1988 and is owned by Karin and Bruce Bennett.

As a lifestyle store, it is the Cornerstone Shop’s goal to provide both a brick and mortar venue for customers on vacation, local area residents, and second home owners to find one-of-kind and unique merchandise in a relaxed shopping environment, as well as provide them with in-store and in-home decorating services. Known in the surrounding 60-mile radius as a premier specialty retail store for gifts and home décor, the store even added a clothing and accessories “department” for personal shopping and gift giving purposes, and is now also a “go to” destination for specialty and boutique clothing lines.

The Cornerstone Shop & Gallery is renowned for its ever-changing displays, friendly and helpful staff, and diverse assortment of home décor, furniture, gifts and clothing, as well as its decorating services. With approximately 30 departments (including home décor, furniture, linens, fine tabletop and giftware, women’s clothing, jewellery, artisan products, original art and more), the visual displays and array of merchandise generate excitement and inspire customers to find creative ways to enhance their homes, personal lifestyles and appearance, or to select the best possible gift for any occasion. The store also offers residential and commercial interior design services.

Market Lake Geneva is a resort town on the shore of Geneva Lake in southeastern Wisconsin, approximately 75 miles northwest of Chicago. The city’s year-round population is only 7,800, but it is a very popular tourist destination year round.

Lake Geneva is also known for its high-profile lake homes and residents. The greater Lake Geneva area is growing with the advent of the baby boomers retiring to the area, and the necessary service industry jobs required to provide services to the increase in population.

The Cornerstone Shop’s target market is female, between the ages 35-70, but this varies seasonally.

The customer base is predominately made up of two general markets. First, approximately 40% of customers are from the greater Lake Geneva area (within a 45-mile radius). Second, approximately 40% are from the greater Chicagoland area. The balance are from all over the United States. Customers include day-trippers, second home owners, and those staying in area lodging.

What is the Future of Specialty Retail? The retail industry has changed over the years and in today’s environment, small brick and mortar stores will only survive by providing exemplary customer service in all aspects of the business. Employing approximately 30 associates, the owners strive to have the best staff who understand the Cornerstone experience and offer superior service; along with a variety of merchandise, quality product and a range of prices, all displayed in an inspirational setting that will keep customers returning and telling their friends about their experience. Services such as gift wrapping, on-floor store assistance and expanded hours of operation are a must in today’s environment; however, that is not enough. Customers must be provided with special order services for the merchandise they desire, in-home decorating services, same day delivery of wrapped presents, and social media services such as websites, Instagram and blogs that put together the latest in trends in a way that inspires customers to purchase. In-store special events that attract customers to the store are also a great way to enhance the customers’ overall experience.

Merchandise Selections & Displays The store’s buyers travel the country and overseas for unique merchandise. The Cornerstone Shop is known for having the “newest” and is often first to bring new products to market. It also balances the new with the “tried and true,” which customers continue to travel to the store to obtain, thus further building loyalty with existing customers. Merchandise is continuously re-displayed to create the illusion of “new.”

The Cornerstone Shop carries a range of price points, and buyers shop carefully to ensure there is something for everyone. Purchases are sometimes adjusted if necessary, based on product lines that are duplicated by other businesses. Given the store’s size and the desirability to vendors, the owners will seek “exclusivity” arrangements for some product lines. Lastly, the store’s method of purchasing (the vision) of themes and resultant displays make similar products more “saleable” in a better displayed environment. The owners research the psychology of purchasing and continually evolve the business to maximize the shopper’s experience, therefore creating a “destination” venue which shoppers seek out as a respite.

Design Services The Cornerstone Shop offers a full range of interior design and professional decorating services. The store’s talented design team offers advice and helpful suggestions to blend customers’ visions with the functionality and style they need for the perfect look, no matter what size project.

The store offers complimentary in-store decorating tips. Many customers bring photos, swatches or even dinnerware to the store for assistance in selecting lamps, artwork, furniture, rugs, linens, mirrors, clocks and accents pieces.

Although in-home design services encompass everything from selecting paint colors, carpeting, window coverings, furniture and home accents, to custom cabinetry, carpentry and painting services, the store has found a niche in smaller design projects. Many customers want a dining room transformed for a special occasion or seek assistance enhancing a room with new wall art and area rugs. The team often takes products directly to customers, so they may preview and select items right in their homes. This works especially well when new furniture is delivered and the team brings complimentary accents items.

In addition, the Cornerstone Shop helps decorate local restaurants, hotels and resorts with wall art, floral arrangements, rugs and other home accents, as well as holiday décor. The store has also been selected to stage homes for tours during area events, such as the annual Antique & Classic Boat Show. Designers also work with local Realtors and visit homes to give sellers tips, based on their budget. The designer will hand-select items to help style the home in a competitive market.

Holiday decorating accounts for a significant portion of the design services. During the store’s annual Holiday Open House, team members and vendors share tablescape tips with customers. Projects range from decorating trees, tablescapes and mantels to creating custom wreaths and floral arrangements, outdoor décor and full home transformations for the holidays.

How does it feel to be part of LUX 2017 Leading Designers? We are truly honored to be included as part of LUX’s 2017 Leading Designers. We continually strive to evolve, and enhance all aspects of the Cornerstone Shop & Gallery – from customer service and experiences to our products selections, merchandising, hiring, staff training and communications, efficiency, marketing and more. Over the years, we have developed a strong team of associates who work well together and with our customers. It’s through their dedication, commitment, efforts, creativity and skills that we have been able to expand not only our store offerings but our design services. With LUX’s reputation and following in the high-end lifestyle market, we are flattered to be recognized for our efforts. And while it’s nice to be recognized for today’s efforts, it is imperative to continuously change with our customers’ needs. If we could offer any advice to any retailer it would be, “Never stop evolving.”

Special Events Special events are a very important part of the overall customer experience at the Cornerstone Shop. Special events throughout the year, including book and art signings, trunk shows, private shopping events, and the store’s largest event – theHoliday Open House – draw local and regional customers not only to the Cornerstone Shop, but also to Lake Geneva. 

The Holiday Open House takes place the first two weekends in November. The entire store is transformed with holiday décor, and customers come to be inspired by the displays and unique merchandise selections. Many plan a trip to Lake Geneva for this event months in advance.

Planning for holiday displays begins nearly a year in advance, prior to the Atlanta International Gift Market in January, when the design team determines the upcoming year’s holiday themes and store layout.

Owners Karin & Bruce Bennett have travelled to the Netherlands to Kaemingk, Europe’s leading designer of seasonal décor, to select additional holiday trees and décor. The Cornerstone Shop was one of the first stores in the U.S. selected to offer Kaemingk.
Also key to the Open House success is the guest line up – which has ranged from artists and authors to lifestyle expert Monica Pedersen. Artists and authors provide personalized gifts, vendors offer specials and giveaways, designers share holiday decorating tips, and the store hosts children’s activities, offers treats refreshments, drawings, goody bags, and more. The annual event draws over 12,000 customers over the two weekends.

Marketing Overview The Cornerstone Shop uses a mix of social media, print and online advertising, eblasts, direct mail, trunk shows and events, and a website. Local businesses (hotels, resorts, restaurants, cruise line) are also supportive in sharing promotions with their customers and followers. Utilizing the mix of advertising and promotions mentioned above, the store continually enhances its marketing efforts that have proven successful in drawing customers and increasing sales:

• Special guests and events, such as the Holiday Open House, trunk shows, art and book signings, and private shopping events

• Customer loyalty program

• Targeted postcard mailings and eblasts

• Promote holiday decorating services

• Co-marketing programs with local businesses

Community & Industry Involvement Since moving to the area, the Bennetts have been active in the community. Karin is a former Board member and serves on the Marketing Committee of Visit Lake Geneva Chamber of Commerce, working to enhance local tourism efforts year-round. She has mentored other local business owners, and developed co-marketing programs to help attract customers to the area. “We all need to work together – the City, the Chamber, the Business Improvement District, local businesses, and employees – to keep downtown Lake Geneva thriving, not only as a destination for tourists, but also for local area residents,” said Bennett.

The Cornerstone Shop supports the fundraising efforts of many local charities and schools, donating more than $50,000 worth of gift baskets and gift cards, $10,000 in monetary donations, and many hours working to support area charities last year. “Although Lake Geneva is known for its high-profile lake homes and residents, there is much need that goes unseen within this community,” said owner Karin Bennett.

Awards & Recognition The Cornerstone Shop has been recogized both locally and within the retail industry, earning honors including:

• 2016 & 2013 Top 50 Retail All-Star – Home Accents Today

• 2016 “25 Gifted Retailer” by Gifts & Decorative Accessories Magazine

• 2016 Retailer Excellence Award Nominee for Marketing Achievement – Gifts & Decorative Accessories Magazine

• 2016 – Top 25 Quarterfinalist for the Independent Small Business of the Year Award (Indie Award) by Independent We Stand

• 2013-2016 Voted “Best of Walworth County” Specialty Gift Shop

• Owner Karin Bennett was selected to participate in a Retailer’s Roundtable along with other retailers and industry players from across the United States during the Atlanta International Gift & Home Fundraising Market in January 2017

• Owner Karin Bennett was selected to serve on the panel addressing the challenges facing brick and mortar stores, share collaboration ideas, discuss opportunities to connect with customers and enhance the store experience during the Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishing Market in January 2016

Company name: Cornerstone Shop & Gallery

Contact: Karin & Bruce Bennett, Owners

Address: 214 Broad St., Lake Geneva, WI 53147

Email: [email protected] Telephone: 262-248-6988