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New London’s The Rugged Sun offers unique activewear for men

Gina Lieser, right, uses a computer to go over clothing options with Ruth Schaeffer, a customer at the Rugged Sun, the new men’s clothing store Lieser owns with Stacey Roberts. The store operates from the same building as the Happy Sol, the women’s boutique they run from the same building.

NEW LONDON — Men looking for unique activewear could visit The Rugged Sun, which opened recently at 25 Main St. N., in downtown New London.

Rugged Sun owners Stacey Roberts and Gina Lieser also own The Happy Sol, a women’s clothing and gift boutique, which they opened here in August 2011.

A few months after opening The Happy Sol, male customers asked about clothing options for them.

“Something similar to The Happy Sol, but that they could wear that was unique, high quality clothes,’’ says Lieser.

In the fall of 2012, they looked for locations and considered having the men’s store separate from the women’s store. They eventually decided to demolish the old Tiger Marine building and had a new building constructed for both the women’s store and men’s store. Last Friday and Saturday, The Rugged Sun held its grand opening and The Happy Sol had its grand re-opening.

Although located in one building, the stores have sep Sunarate entrances and a center pass-through.

Many of The Happy Sol’s clothing lines have a men’s option. Roberts and Lieser knew that when they opened the men’s store that it would reflect the same style and quality in the women’s store. Also, they looked for additional styles.

“One of the things we knew we wanted to add to our products in The Happy Sol was activewear for women,’’ said Roberts. “When we decided to open The Rugged Sun for men, we decided to combine it with activewear for men and women.’’

Adds Lieser, “We’re very much a store for people with an active lifestyle, whether that’s outdoor activities or indoor activities; accessories complement the active lifestyle.’’

Also, they pay close attention to having a good selection of products made by vendors within a 60-mile radius, along with a few products from the metro area, around the state and from other locations.

When asked if these types of stores are becoming more popular, Roberts said she thinks customers in “shopping towns’’ will come upon a store similar to theirs.

“But I think our store is unique in a lot of ways because we do combine household décor and fashionable, functional clothing, for both men and women, and it’s not just targeted to one,’’ said Roberts. “What we don’t do is careerwear. Otherwise, we dress for most every other situation. People can get a lot of their needs met here for clothing.’’

Because they’re located in a small community they order a maximum of six pieces of any statement item to stay different and unique.

“I think that is something that is kind of cool about our store that you don’t find everywhere else,’’ said Lieser. They also do special orders.

Despite the stress of running a business, Roberts and Lieser have fun and their employees are outgoing and have a lot of energy.

After more than two years in business with The Happy Sol, Roberts and Lieser know the likes and wants of their female customers, and they hope to reach the same level with the men’s store.

“We know there are some things that we probably aren’t going to reorder again. But overall we’re trying to find what it is that the guys in the community are looking at,’’ says Roberts. “We’re very responsive to our customers’ input. Hopefully once we build our customer base we’ll be able to keep stuff in stock for our customers.’’

Lieser and Roberts say the community has stepped up, is shopping local and supporting them and other Main Street businesses. They say people can spend the day in New London, eat and get all their shopping done here.

“What we offer is a personal shopping experience and that’s what we pride ourselves in is taking care of our customers, getting to know them,’’ says Roberts. “This is what makes it so much fun.’’

Dan Burdett

Dan Burdett is the community content coordinator at the West Central Tribune. He has 13 years experience in print media, to include four years enlisted service in the United States Air Force. He has been an employee of Forum Communications since 2005, joining the company after spending two years as the managing editor of the Redwood Gazette and Livewire in Redwood Falls. Prior to his current position, Dan was the presentation editor at the Tribune.

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