When you visit Bayfield, Wisconsin, you’ll notice its unique beauty and attributes, from the picturesque views of Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands to the charming businesses that line the streets of the small city. As you go from business to business, you’ll be greeted with Midwest charm, and you might also notice that many of those friendly faces will come from women, and it’s been that way for a long time.

Shopping at Sweet Sailing

(Pictured, Owner Beta Bodin helping customers at Sweet Sailing)  

“In the 60s, the prime faces you saw in town were women. Women have always been at the forefront of Bayfield businesses,” remembers Heidi Nelson, who grew up in Bayfield and worked for the late Mary Rice; a famed Bayfield entrepreneur who either owned or started numerous enterprises across Bayfield and Madeline Island. Rice's Bayfield estate has since been turned into the Queen's View Bed & Breakfast, now managed by Margret Erickson. 

Of the Bayfield Chamber and Visitor Bureau’s 300 membership base, 70 percent are female-led. In Bayfield alone, 64 percent of the member businesses are owned and operated by women.

Lake Superior Scandinavian

(Pictured, Cara Overland of Lake Superior Scandinavian) 

Cara Overland, owner of Lake Superior Scandinavian, opened her hand-made jewelry shop in 2022 along Rittenhouse Avenue. She found it surprisingly refreshing to be surrounded by so many women entrepreneurs.

“When I need guidance or support, I know I can call on any other female entrepreneurs in Bayfield and they are there with support or just to lend an ear, and that’s really unique,” said Overland.

For a century, much of the city’s beautification has been taken care of by the women of the Bayfield Civic League.  Established in 1913 with 28 members, this group of dedicated women started organizing community meals, cleaning the sidewalks, and managing Memorial Park. The Civic League now has 100 members, and its latest accomplishment was raising more than $100,000 to replace the historic Gazebo at Memorial Park.

Current Civic League President Sue Gerzina says the group continues to bring in the next generation of women leaders to the organization and continues to look at how to get more women involved. 

Joanne's Scandinavian

(Pictured, Solveig Hadland of Joanne's Scandinavian)  

Many of Bayfield’s staple businesses are owned and operated by women. Solveig Hadland, owner of Joanne’s Scandinavian, learned from her mother what it took to be a fearless business owner.

“She was never scared of failure; she was gutsy and courageous…one of those people who could do anything,” said Solveig. “My parents were in banking and had a bank in Southwest Minnesota during the farm crisis and they lost the bank. My father was born and raised in Bayfield, so they returned here and my mother opened the store.” 

Her mother started the shop in 1986 with a $5,000 loan on her husband's life insurance policy and a small amount of merchandise. 

Now, 38 years later, Solveig has put her own twist on the shop, which is stocked with Scandinavian items.

“My mother always encouraged me to make my own mistakes, and when I purchased the shop from her she told me the store should reflect me,” said Solveig. “If it's not something I like, I don’t carry it. I want it to be good quality and I want it to be beautiful.”

Other Bayfield business staples include Greunke’s First Street Inn and Restaurant owned by Judith Lokken-Strom, Silverwaves Jewelry owned by Lissa Flemming,  Bell Street Gallery - Bayfield owned by Kayla Picciano, The Bayfield Inn and all of its properties, including The Creamery Bar and Vacation Rentals owned by Kim West. Dede Eckels kept her late father’s pottery shop, Eckels Pottery and Fine Craft Gallery, operating which has earned the title of the oldest pottery in Wisconsin. The list goes on and on and more businesses are being added. 

Manypenny Business Owners

(Pictured from left to right: Kate Clark of Penny Print Studio, Darcy Schwerin of Blu Studio+Wellness, Rachel Carpenter of Good Flower Farm and Field Day.) 

Many visitors end up becoming residents of Bayfield. Helping them find the perfect home or piece of property are more women like Jenna Galegher of Windseeker Realty or Esme Martinson and Marike Van Donkersgoed of Broad Street Brokers.  Long-time visitors will notice more businesses have popped up over the last few years, with shops expanding down Manypenny Avenue, new art galleries, and a boutique-style hotel, all women-led ventures.  

“There’s just a ton of cool and creative collaborations that are always happening and the energy that female entrepreneurs bring, help move any idea forward,” said Overland.

Check out all of the Bayfield Chamber and Visitor Bureau's wonderful retail business HERE or BOOK YOUR STAY and know your dollars will support a female-led community.