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Storytelling: Joanne Patzfahl, Owner of Treasure Cove

“I opened my business in 1985 as a fine jewelry store on Center Street in Lake Geneva. I had watches, an engraving machine, a diamond section, a gold section, and more. For about a year, I tried to sell the jewelry and nobody would buy it. I knew it was reasonably priced, so that wasn't the problem. I knew I needed to make a change if I wanted the business to survive. I changed locations to my current spot on Broad Street but I needed to do more. My mom was helping me during that time and we decided to look at some catalogs and find something to add to the mix. We found these little plastic horses and my mom and I decided, ‘let’s try them’.


The customers loved those plastic horses, haha, so we kept getting more and more gifts. We toned down the jewelry and added more souvenirs, toys, and collectibles. Then the customers would ask for t-shirts, so we brought in a t-shirt section. We kept listening to our people about what they wanted and bought merchandise according to their requests. We’ve evolved and changed so much in the last 38 years because if it's not working, it's gone. If it's working, it can stay. Being able to survive, to adjust, to maintain, to make sure that I didn't go out of business, that’s one of my biggest accomplishments. I tried candles once… mega failure for me… so we don't have candles anymore.


Being a woman business owner has been different than you might expect. When I first started, people would come in and want to see the boss. They’d ask ‘When is he going to be in?’ and it'd be me. They'd say, ‘but the boss, the owner’, like it couldn’t possibly be me. It was unbelievable to them that I could be a 30 year old woman and the owner of the business. I once went to a trade show and I brought my [now] ex-husband with me. The sales reps would race up to him and try to get him to buy something. He didn't know one iota of what was going on in the store, what we needed, or what I bought. They wouldn't pay any attention to me because I was female. So I would walk on because why do I want to buy from somebody who can't even face the fact that I'm female?


After being in business a few years, I had my two oldest children. I would bring them to work with me all the time. When my daughter was about 3 and my son about 16 months old, I came up with the solution to the ‘Where’s the boss?’ question. When sales reps and customers would want to speak with the boss, I'd say ‘he's not available’. I was referring to my infant son who was laying in the crib behind me. I decided to call him ‘the boss’. Then my daughter wanted a title too, so she became ‘the manager’. She asked me, ‘Well, what are you?’ I'm the peon. I'm the one that does all the work. After a while, people stopped asking for the boss, the world changed, and being a woman in business became much more common.


The store is my home - my safe place. I’ve raised my 4 children here. My grandchildren that live in the area come here. I love that I have this place for them to come and feel safe as well. I’ve made some wonderful connections, met some amazing people, and formed lifelong relationships throughout the years. Every year is different for us. I can’t wait to see what 2024 brings for Treasure Cove.” - Joanne Patzfahl, Owner, Treasure Cove

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