Home décor shop La Belle Maison to close in downtown Appleton

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APPLETON – A downtown shop is closing after just over a year of business.

La Belle Maison at 229 E. College Ave. will close by April 23, owner Sandi Pufahl told The Post-Crescent Tuesday. The home décor shop and interior design studio opened last January, but has struggled in recent months, Pufahl said.

“Although I love it here, my business has struggled through the pandemic,” she said. “Business hasn’t been good. We expect January and February to be slow, but it’s just exceedingly slow. I think a lot of people are concerned about the cost of everything going up and gas prices in the Ukraine. But it’s just been really rough.”

La Belle Maison, which is French for “a beautiful home,” offers home and garden décor, vintage furniture, artwork, jewelry and lighting, among other gifts. Several loans and grants, including a small PPP loan and a grant from Appleton Downtown Inc., helped the business in its first year, but that kind of support hasn’t been there in 2022.

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“Last year there was a lot of money out there in grants and PPP loans that really helped us stay afloat,” Pufahl said. “It was still not great, but I thought after a year of being here it should be better. But it’s actually been worse. Our sales are considerably less than they were last year.”

Also contributing to Pufahl’s decision to close her daughter, who has multiple sclerosis and needs STEM cell surgery. Pufahl will soon start fundraising for the $65,000 surgery, which must be paid for out of pocket, she said.

“If the shop was going great, it’d be one thing. It’d be more difficult to close,” Pufahl said. “But with her needing me to help her and I’m the only person who can do it for her, that’s the other reason (for closing).”

Pufahl, who lives in Menasha, has over 30 years of experience in interior design. She previously operated stores in Neenah and Menasha and was running her interior design business from home prior to opening La Belle Maison. She’ll continue business from home after closing her storefront, she said.

“I’ll continue to do my interior design business. I can do that from home,” Pufahl said. “That I’ll always do.”

She’ll miss her downtown space and getting to know her customers, some of whom came all the way from Chicago and Escanaba, Michigan. She also became a favorite for locals, especially those who walk their pets downtown.

“I got to know a lot of the people in the area who would bring their dogs in all the time, so we’d always have dog treats. The dogs would kind of make a beeline into my shop because they knew they were going to get treats,” Pufahl said with a laugh.

“I’m going to miss it a lot. It’s a cool and happening spot.”

La Belle Maison is running discounts on its inventory and fixtures until it closes. Most merchandise is currently 30% off and will be 40% off this weekend, according to Pufahl. Prices will drop to 50% as the shop nears closing.

La Belle Maison is open 10 am to 5 pm Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 4 pm Saturday and is closed Monday and Sunday. For more information, call 920-456-9490 or visit La Belle Maison on Facebook.

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Contact Brad Star at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @byBradStar.