February 26, 2023

How I Met My Work Wife

By Karen Tardrew
How I Met My Work Wife

Entrepreneurship can be a tough road if you’re walking it solo. Fortunately, I’ve been blessed with supportive family and friends by my side throughout my journey - my husband, my children, my brothers, my mom, and most importantly for the purposes of this post, my work wife, Jenn.

I’ve been thinking about how grateful I am that I met Jenn, almost by accident. It’s one of those magical stories that I love to tell here on the Wise Grasshopper, and I knew I couldn’t let the opportunity pass by to share it.

Grasshopper Goods | Karen Tardrew

Many of you may not know this, but Jenn and I met working at A Stone’s Throw (an awesome shop that used to be on Monroe St. in Madison) about 11 years ago.  My daughter, Kelsey, had first worked there and became close to Jenn during her tenure. After Kelsey left for college, the shop needed some early morning help. 

It was a time when things were hard and sad for me. My dad had recently died of brain cancer, my eldest left for college, and Act 10 impacted education in Wisconsin. A Stone’s Throw was one of my favorite shops, and just a few blocks away from home. So I thought, why not! The idea of getting a discount didn’t hurt, and I would get to be around pretty things when the world didn’t feel so vibrant.

Jenn and I became close immediately. We had a similar commitment to our families, same sense of humor, and a dedicated work ethic. I describe her as the Shirley to my Laverne. A Green Bay native, she learned to drive in the Lambeau Field parking lot, and is a huge Packer fan. It was “work wife at first sight” for us both!

It was there in the shop that I first told Jenn of my vision for Grasshopper Goods, and told her that, when it happened, I wanted her to be my creative director. 

You see, Jenn is always working her magic. She is visually gifted, deeply compassionate, has bionic ears (really), has been a vegetarian for decades, can sing most lyrics, is crazy smart and one of my favorite all around humans.

It was that original leap of faith that led to crazy truck life, driving Vinny through all sorts of mind-blowing weather, creating inside jokes almost daily, fostering new friendships, participating in educational opportunities, starting collaborations, drinking a few adult beverages, listening to music from around the world, and laughing, oh so much laughing.

In 2019, we were led (through the amazing serendipity that always seems to find Jenn) to a permanent spot in the amazing community of Stoughton. We are honored to be a part of that “something special” that’s happening in Stoughton, that booming downtown economy generated by small businesses up and down Main Street. Starting the brick and mortar shop, visualizing how we would merchandise products, create shop windows, and more was an even greater catalyst to our unbreakable bond. 

So now, here we are. Nearly seven years in (February 2023), and I can honestly say we’ve laughed every day that we’ve worked together. We’re both a couple of weirdos who, along with many blessings, have faced adversity in life and will jump at the chance to tell you that a sense of humor is a necessary life skill. And, in retail, it’s absolutely essential.

It’s not often that you get to meet someone by chance who you create a deep, binding soul connection with, someone who can change the way you think about the world and can push you to find your perfect place within it. Jenn has been that for me throughout the lifespan of Grasshopper Goods, cheering me on and providing incredibly creative insight into the strategy for our future. 

I’m so happy to have made the decision all those years ago to take a chance at a new opportunity, and to have met Jenn because of it. Here’s to Jenn, to taking a risk, saying yes to things that make you uncomfortable, and to laughing each and every day.