Iconic SW Wisconsin business transitions to new owner

LANCASTER, Wis. — An iconic southwest Wisconsin business that has served the community for more than nine decades has changed hands.

Karri and David Schauff this week became the new owners of Walker’s Clothing and Shoes in Lancaster. The business had been owned by Steve Walker since 1990.

“I know I have big shoes to fill,” Karri said. “I hope I can continue the tradition.”

Steve Walker represented the third generation of his family to lead the business, which was co-founded by his grandfather. Steve started working full time at the store in 1979 and purchased the business from his father about 11 years later.

He acknowledged that it was “bittersweet” to have the business leave the family. Even so, he said he is very confident it will remain a success under the new owners.

“This not a COVID(-19) decision, and it was not a financial decision,” he said. “This was the time right for me (to sell the business) for many reasons. I also knew I had the right person interested in taking on the venture.”

While Karri Schauff is not related to Walker, they do have a close bond and mutual respect that was built up over many years working side by side.

Karri worked at Walker’s for about eight years.

“He was my mentor,” she said of Walker. “I learned everything I know from him,”

When Walker decided to close the part of his store that sold children’s clothing, Schauff decided to fill the void by opening a business of her own.

She launched Cruisin’ Kids, a baby and children’s clothing store, about eight years ago, and the business remains in operation today. Schauff said she plans to move Cruisin’ Kids from its current location at 121 N. Madison St. to a space within the Walker’s location this summer.

Schauff emphasized that customers won’t notice many other changes at the business. Major draws such as the Carhartt products, tuxedoes and the shoe department will remain intact.

All of the current employees at Walker’s will remain under the new ownership, an arrangement that Schauff believes will ensure guests are greeted by familiar faces when visiting the store.

For the time being, that includes Steve Walker himself, who will maintain a presence at the store while it transitions to a new era.

Walker acknowledged that the long hours tied to his career often have meant time away from the family. He credited his wife, Laurie, for picking up the slack at home when he was absent.

Stepping away from the business will be hard for Walker.

“I have been working here for a long time,” he said. “You meet a lot of customers and make a lot of friendships that come from this. It is a way of life.”