Jen Wuebben embarked on a 14-year journey of self-discovery to determine where she could best use her talents and explore her interests. She loved fashion illustration and dreamed of owning her own store, so she enrolled at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in textile and apparel design, where she took advantage of the program option to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City her senior year. Jen graduated from UW–Madison with a BS in textiles and fashion design. School reinforced her skills in design and illustration for women, men, and children’s clothing, and taught her about fabrics, sewing, clothing construction, clothing collections, and the fashion world.
Postcollege, jobs as a designer, merchandiser, and buyer took this Twin Cities native far and wide. Jen worked as assistant to a vice president at Burberry in London, England; an assistant designer at Land’s End; a sales associate for a high-end women’s boutique in Madison; and a fashion illustration instructor at UW–Madison School of Human Ecology. After marrying her husband, Eric, they moved to San Francisco, where she was an accessory buyer for women, men, and children at Kmart apparel.
Years of many great behind-the-scenes fashion jobs allowed Jen to realize her passion to open a store. She wanted to work directly with customers to get to know them and what they wanted as they moved through their phases of life. Owning a store would allow her to express her creativity and use the fashion and business skills she’d acquired since college.
In 2016, Jen and Eric moved back to the Midwest to be near family and allow Jen to start the retail store of her dreams. Jen saw a gap in the Madison market for a children’s store like the ones she and Eric visited in San Francisco, where they’d shop on the weekend to select gifts for their nieces, nephews, and the children of their friends. She started the creative process of finding just the right store name, which had to provide a dual purpose: serve as an umbrella for future growth since the first venture would be a children’s store, followed down the road by a clothing store for women, and the name had to capture how the store would be a fun, inspirational shopping destination to visit again and again.
“While sleeping one night, ‘Tradition’ came to me,” says Jen. “I immediately grabbed my cellphone to look up the meaning and was excited about how this word fit my vision. Traditions hold a strong place in our hearts, and I wanted customers to be able to start a new tradition by visiting the store to shop, browse, or gain inspiration through all stages of life. The logo is a simple line drawing of three different sizes of stars connected to each other to symbolize the Tradition clothing ventures, and to connect generations of customers who would shop at the stores.”
Tradition Children’s Market opened in September 2016 in a small store space in Middleton. When a larger store space opened a year later a short distance away, the store moved to 1823 Parmenter Street. Jen and Eric did the build-outs themselves for both stores.
Tradition Market’s merchandise is an imaginative, innovative, and nostalgic assortment of apparel, accessories, and toys for young children. Jen travels to market shows across the country and abroad to select just the right merchandise from over 50 vendors for fashion styles that fit the budget and don’t display the brand name across the front. Her talent for merchandising and store design makes it welcoming and appealing to all generations.
“Children love entertaining themselves in the store’s playhouse and being able to select their own fun outfit. Parents often visit to find a special outfit for family photos or holidays, and grandparents come to seek the perfect gift. Sometimes people come in just to have a whimsical place to escape.”
There’s a 50/50 ratio of girls to boys classic-style clothing that is merchandised together in sizes 2T to 10 with some baby items and a few styles in sizes 12 and 14. The garments are steamed so customers get the true look of the outfit and can feel the fabric.
Customers will find a variety of tailored, preppy, bohemian, and vintage-inspired styles. The clothing and accessories are displayed together throughout the store to make it easy to layer and coordinate a great outfit. For footwear, there are cowgirl and cowboy boots, native shoes, and Hunter rain boots in seven colors. “The popular boot saves a family money when it is purchased a little larger in the fall so it can be worn with a heavy sock for winter and, after the child’s feet grow, with a thinner sock in the spring.”
In early 2019, the store next to Tradition Children’s Market closed, allowing Jen to move to the next phase of her expansion plan for a women’s store. A fitting room was converted to a passage to connect the stores and allow staff and customers to easily flow back and forth.
Having opened in September 2019, Tradition Women’s Market is the grown-up version of the Children’s Market with the same essence, but a more mature environment. The clothing ranges from small to extra large of name brands, including Hunter, Rylee + Cru, Joules, and new brands with crossover appeal geared to the 30-something woman. The styles are basic instead of trendy, with soft fabrics and textures to make the clothing interesting and unique.
Tradition is part of a Middleton shopping destination that is home to many fun and unique stores, so hop on the community trolley and make shopping in Middleton a tradition for years to come.
Lauri Lee is a freelance writer living in Madison.
1823 Parmenter Street
Middleton, WI 53562