A new phase Over the Moon
Boutique and its owners make Barton Avenue home


Aug. 26, 2015

 The exterior at Over the Moon Tuesday, Aug. 18 in West Bend. The store is a women's boutique offering new and vintage items.   
Photo by John Ehlke

Over the Moon has come full circle. The business, which features new, vintage and handmade items geared toward women, recently moved to Barton Avenue — a place with quite a history. The owner and her husband purchased the brick building in the ’80s.

“I want them to find unique things here, not things other shops have,” owner Debra Slais said of her customers. “I want them to be excited to come back and see what’s next.”

Over the Moon’s sign fittingly reads, “Gifts; New & Vintage Treasures.” The boutique carries scarves, new and vintage handbags, glassware, antique hand mirrors, hats, ornaments, victorian shoes, foodie items like packaged dip mixes and more.

Slais is fascinated with Moon gifts and apparently many of her customers are, too. One of her best sellers is a necklace inset with phases of the moon.

Drive down Barton Avenue and it’s fairly easy to spot the shop. Essie, the store mascot, is peering out a large display window. She sits in the window with reading glasses and a book at her side. A light next to Essie goes on at night and her outfit and surroundings change with the seasons.

 Owners Jeff and Debbie Slais at Over the Moon Tuesday, Aug. 18 in West Bend.    
Photo by John Ehlke

Jeff has great ideas for storefront decor and changing the windowscape is a delight for the couple, Debra said of her husband. They wed 42 years ago. The store name has family ties.

“My granddaughter lives in Kentucky and I would have this thing, ‘I love you to the moon,’” Debra said. Granddaughter Brooke Aschenbrenner would respond, “and back.”

The shop and building have an interesting history.

Debra and Jeff purchased the building at 1720 Barton Ave. in 1987 and opened The Knot Hole Gifts there in 1991. “He was the tree and I was the knot hole,” Debra laughed.

There was damage from water leaks and other upkeep issues in the 158-some-year-old structure, but the couple worked on it and there is little left to fix in the gift shop portion.

John Reisses built the stone building in 1857 and it became a general store and tailor shop, according to paperwork in Jeff’s file cabinet of old newspapers and photos. Jeff put the building’s age into perspective — it was built about three years before Abraham Lincoln was elected president.

 Perfume bottles on display at Over the Moon Tuesday, Aug. 18 in West Bend.     
Photo by John Ehlke

The Slaises soon wanted more space for the shop and moved to Oak and Main streets. They were there four years. Then Debra went to work for a bank for more than 16 years and bank executives wanted her to move to Milwaukee, so she left.

Debra tried to find work for a few months but nothing came of it. “Jeff and I talked and said, ‘let’s go back into retail,’” Debra said.

That’s when they opened Over the Moon on Sixth Avenue but the area didn’t have the traffic she needed.

“I’ve had more business in two days here than in two months on Sixth Avenue,” Debra said.

Barton Avenue is also quite convenient as they live in the upstairs they remodeled from what was a dance hall back in the day.

“My intention was to move back to here all along,” Debra said. The area Over the Moon occupies is a section of what became a funeral home and more in the early 1900s.

 A patron passes by the mannequin named Essie in the front window at Over the Moon Tuesday, Aug. 18 in West Bend.      
Photo by John Ehlke

Kay Best, 86, recalls when the building was transformed to a funeral home.

“In Barton you didn’t have very much to do and you had an annex next door — there was a little section where people could go when someone was in state so we’d go look at them,” she said. She and her friends weren’t there maliciously, it was just something to do, she said. “There was always a nice display of furniture in the window — it was a furniture store and funeral home combination.”

Now, in the same building, across the entryway from Over the Moon is Jeff’s workshop, Wisconsin House Woodworks, which was Wisconsin House Hotel years ago.

Jeff has built numerous custom kitchens but is stepping away from that portion of his business because of the time it takes.

However, he will continue creating unique specialty items. His work includes everything from making three Washington County judges’ gavels to church altars and pulpits.

Numerous area businesses and buildings have Jeff’s creations, including Timmer’s Resort.

All these projects have set Jeff back on reworking the interior of his business.

“The shoemaker’s kids don’t wear shoes,” he joked.

But there is work going on inside, as can be seen through the large storefront windows.

They plan on expanding their businesses.

“As we go into retirement years we want this to be our main thing,” Debra said.

Reach Editor Jennifer McBride at jmcbride@conleynet.com