Big Girl Stickers expands services in new downtown location

Melissa Burnett and her husband Rocky, not shown, are the proprietors of Big Girl Stickers & Stems, now open in downtown Chatfield. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
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One little suggestion, ten whole years ago.

Melissa and Rocky Burnett are still stuck on it.

“It started when a friend of ours, Karla Bucknell, wanted some wall decals for her house, and I was familiar with how to do that. That night, we ordered the equipment, and Big Girl Stickers was born. Now, of course, this all happened over a couple of bottles of wine, but we have been in business for going on ten years now,” related Chatfield resident Melissa Burnett, co-owner of Big Girl Stickers.

She operates the vinyl and screen-printing business with her husband, now located in downtown Chatfield in the former Fortier Jewelers building on the northeast end. The business has been renamed “Big Girl Stickers & Stems,” as Big Girl’s new home includes the original vinyl and screen-printing but also floral arrangements made by Melissa’s mother, Cindy McManimon.

Rocky pointed out that his wife has the talent and very extroverted personality that being a graphic designer requires, and that’s partly how their creations started adhering to more than just their friend’s walls.

“Melissa has a degree in multimedia design and graphic design, and also has good people skills that allow her to help the customer get just what they are looking for,” he said.

Big Girl has a diverse range of items from which customers may choose, and Melissa outlined how those things came to be. “We produce everything from a decal for the window of your car to a 24-inch by 48-inch sign to put above your bed — everything from a fun golf tournament t-shirt to the fan gear for the wrestling booster club,” Melissa said. “We started doing home parties — people would invite us in along with some of their friends and they could order any idea they had. Rocky was involved right away, with the cutting, sanding and painting of all the boards for signs. He is also the one with a pretty straight eye when it comes to applying the vinyl. It soon became more of a job than a hobby, and we bought our friends out and moved it into our home and garage. Several years ago, we took classes on screen-printing, and then bought the equipment to do screen-printing ourselves. The screen-printing part has helped to increase our business.”

As Big Girl grew up, the Burnetts had to add equipment and learn more processes to offer more items when their customers requested something new.

Melissa shared, “We have tried several different inks to get the look and feel that our customers are looking for in the screen-printing process. We have also added dryers that have allowed us to speed up production. As far as the vinyl goes, we now have many colors to choose from to get just the right look for your home.”

Rocky and Melissa have taken their wares to various shows, including to those in Rochester, introducing them to eager shoppers, but also spurring some growing pains as the custom work took over their basement and garage, eventually booting their lawn mower and car out into the rain and snow. The Burnetts had to decide, after some serious contemplation, whether to stick with their venture.

Melissa cited, “We have done Thursdays on First for the last four years, and that has allowed us to spread throughout the country and even shipping things to Australia. The majority of our customers come from southern Minnesota and northern Iowa. And when we remodeled our house, we designed it around the vinyl equipment, and then we added the screen-printing equipment and dryers. It filled up our basement and garage, along with other rooms within our house. In the back of our minds, the thought was always there to someday be in a storefront. A couple of years ago, it came to a point where we had to decide to move forward with the storefront idea or be done with it altogether – the business had grown to the point where we could no longer do it part-time.”

 The couple shopped around town for a new home for their enterprise, but it took some time to locate the perfect building.

She stated, “We looked at a couple of other options here in town, and they just didn’t feel right.”

When they looked at the former Fortier Jewelry building, they knew it would be a lot of work to renovate it, but they also had a vision of what it could become.

“After the initial walk-through, we talked about it together, and we both had a similar vision of how we wanted it to look and feel. It just felt right,” Melissa added.

 They closed on the property in early March and got right to work overhauling the interior.

“We removed everything down to the brick walls and built it back to new. All-new plumbing, HVAC and electrical were added. There were many layers of plaster over the brick walls that we removed to expose the original brick walls,” Melissa said. “One of the biggest challenges was that the building sat empty for so long that everything we opened up was more work than we thought it would be.”

However, there were treasures hidden in the structure’s walls. “We found a lot of old newspapers and catalogs that were cool. We found a two-by-four in one of the walls upstairs that had the family’s name and the kids’ ages written on it when the last remodel was done. It also had the names of the contractors that had done the work. We have kept that board and plan to do the same for our family and contractors, because the family has helped in many ways, from the demo work that was done to the painting,” Melissa said.

Their daughter, Rylee, helps run the front end of the shop. Rocky and their sons enjoy using power tools together to make the signs.

 The shop’s also got a blooming corner for Melissa’s mother, McManimon, who is an experienced florist who has worked with the late Chatfield florist Chris Grutzmacher, who was better known as “Mr. G.”

“We knew that she would be part of the floral part of the shop, so we used her knowledge to help with the planning of the cooler and the space needed for that part of the shop. We included a walk-in cooler to store the flowers, and plenty of countertop and a wash sink. Now, with the fresh-cut flowers, we can do anything from a single rose to all of your wedding or funeral flower needs, and with the addition of the shop and flowers, we look for the business to grow even more,” Melissa said. “The building will never be done, as we will always be changing things to fit our needs and likes, but we are thrilled with the way it turned out and feel that we did things right without cutting corners. Right now, we are focusing on what business we have going.”

 The partners in vinyl want to be certain that they’re reaching people with the right merchandise and message, and according to Melissa, “We just want people to know who we are and what we do. With the name ‘Big Girl Stickers,’ some may not know what that means, but it’s very rewarding, as the times that we make something for someone and see the look on their face when they pick it up makes it worth it. We love the stories that go along with each order. Each thing we do has a different meaning to the person ordering it, and it means a lot to us to hear those stories and see the emotion that they have about the finished product. And as far as product goes, we hope that having another place in town to shop for that last-minute gift will be helpful. We also hope that the flower shop is something people will be able to use and enjoy.”

 In addition to operating a business, Rocky working for the city of Chatfield as assistant ambulance director and Melissa as the city’s new CCTV coordinator, plus keeping up with their children, the Burnetts are on call.

Melissa explained, “We are both very active in the community. I’m on the fire department, while Rocky works for the ambulance service, not to mention the other committees that we sit on. The biggest challenge facing us has always been working full-time jobs and doing this while trying to raise a family. Our customers are so good at allowing us to work with them on deadlines.”

Moving downtown will allow Rocky and Melissa a chance to better serve their customers and still make time for family, as Melissa remarked, “It will be nice to shut the light off and lock the door and go home at the end of the day. Also, it will be easier for customers to pick things up at the store instead of our home.”

And going home is more comfortable now that home’s minus the projects hanging, draped or spread throughout. “We will be able to park our lawn mower and our car in the garage again — that will be nice. We also hope that just a more-happening and bright Main Street is something people will appreciate.”

 Big Girl Stickers is located at 208 Main St. S., Chatfield, on the east side, and the Burnetts welcome curious visitors and customers alike.

Melissa concluded, “The grand opening was July 28, and to start, our hours will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. We believe that if you offer a good product at a fair price, along with quality, personable service, people will support you. We are so thankful for all of the positivity that has surrounded this project. We would like to thank all of our loyal customers that have helped make this dream a reality.”