Nadine's set to celebrate 40 years of business

Denise Schornack poses for a portrait in Nadine's on Oct. 10, 2019. Schornack is celebrating 40 years of owning Nadine's. (Carter Jones / FOCUS)

Nadine’s Ladies Fashions is a retail pillar on Perham’s robust Main Street.

Next month, Nadine’s will celebrate 40 years of business, an achievement owner Denise Schornack says is nothing short of mind-blowing.

Schornack got her start in retail at a young age. While attending New York Mills High School, she worked for her uncle’s store, Jodi’s Casuals.

“I got to learn how to buy early and loved it,” Schornack said of travelling to different conventions to stock the store’s inventory.

Faced with a job shortage in Perham, Schornack decided to make it on her own by opening Nadine’s, which borrows its name from Schornack’s middle name, in November 1979 before graduating from the University of Minnesota the next month.


While she was wrapping up her last month of college, Schornack’s mom ran the store to get a jump on the Christmas season.

“I was scared to death, I really was,” Schornack said of her beginning. “Now that it’s 40 years later and we’re still here, it’s really humbling.”

Nadine’s first storefront is now the home of The Willow Bookstore. Rich and Carol Bucholz, who owned the building and rented to Schornack, were very encouraging in the early stages of Nadine’s.

When Nadine’s outgrew its first space, Schornack bought the lot across the street that was formerly the Coast to Coast hardware store.

“We just kept adding inventory as we could afford it over the years,” Schornack said.

One of Schornack’s biggest influences was her father, who she called her top motivator.

“He was a great businessman who gave me the right advice at the right time,” she said, wiping away tears. “No. 1, he believed in me.”

Schornack said she relied on her dad for emotional support, and knew she could always go to him for help in a pinch, even though she never had to.


Personal touch

As online and big box retailers siphon off business from small towns, Schornack sees having one location as an advantage.

“The beauty of being one store is I can change if I see something slowing down,” she said. “Tastes change very quickly, so I can quickly jump on to something else that’s doing better.”

When shopping at markets from Atlanta to Chicago, Schornack can pinpoint styles that would be a draw for individual shoppers.

“We’ll say ‘that's a Cheryl or that’s a Celeste,’” she said. “Then when it comes in, we’ll call them and say ‘we just got in something that we bought with you in mind.’ And it truly was bought with them in mind."

As the decades add up, some of Schornack’s longtime customers have died, which she compares to losing a family member. She adds it can be especially painful attending wakes seeing someone laying in clothes that she picked out for them.

Overall, Schornack says Nadine’s wouldn’t be what it is without its staff.

On any given day, Nadine's has a handful of staff waiting to immediately tend to every customer that walks in the door.

Nadine’s Manager, Paula Fischer, said the store’s staff is like a caring family.


“We all know each other’s families and share stories,” Fischer said.

Fischer said without Nadine’s there would be nowhere else for “real women to buy.”

“We’re not someone who’s going to lie to you,” Schornack said. “If it looks good, it looks good. And if it doesn’t, we’ll find something better.”

Schornack says most women will feel good if they look good.

“If we can let them leave feeling really good about themselves and how they look, it doesn’t matter what size they are,” she said. “We just try to make everyone look the best they can in the body that God gave them.”

Fischer said Nadine’s customers love the service they’ve come to expect, and know the staff will find what will work for them.

This helpful attitude is exactly what Schornack looks at in hiring staff.

“If you don’t like people, it’s really hard to do what we do,” she said. “It’s not about you, it’s about the customer.”

This commitment to service means customers regularly drive from Fargo, Fergus Falls, Alexandria and Grand Forks.

Not an inch is spared in the floor's layout as dozens of racks stock everything from winter coats to swimwear, shoes, sunglasses, jewelry and even kids clothes.

The sheer amount of inventory in Nadine’s can be daunting, but Schornack said the volume is necessary so she doesn’t run out of stock.

“Most women love it because they feel like they find treasures in there by looking through it,” she said. “It’s not uncommon to get something in and then be down to one in a few days.”

Longtime Nadine's employee Karen Johnson compared unpacking new inventory to unwrapping Christmas presents.

Schornack lives and breathes Nadine’s and can be seen on the sales floor almost every day, even on her "days off." The only time she does get away from the store are when she accompanies her husband, David, director of business development and sales at Arvig, on business trips. Schornack calls these trips “research” and says she’s always looking for at least one line she can stock in the store.

Last summer, Schornack found a sweatshirt she absolutely loved while visiting Hilton Head, S.C. She reordered 38 different times, after selling out each time it was in stock.

At 61, Schornack still has no plans of retiring, but says a cancer battle a few years ago changed her.

“Everybody’s life happens, no matter what you’re doing along the way,” she said. “It made me appreciate everything and be so grateful for what I have.”

Get in touch

  • Nadine's is at 145 W. Main St.

  • The store is open 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Monday through Tuesday; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.
  • For more, call 218-346-2615 or find Nadine's Lady Fashions on Facebook.
Related Topics: RETAILPERHAM
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