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'Until the next great adventure': Lakegirl sells brand to Lakeshirts

Lakegirl has two stores, both of which will stay open and still sell Lakegirl apparel. Submitted Photo1 / 3
Lakegirl clothing started with a few t-shirts and grew into an entire brand that is popular all across the United States. Submitted Photo2 / 3
Lakegirl ships out apparel to 800-plus stores in the country. Submitted Photo3 / 3

For the past 14 years, Peggy Heglie has spent her time creating, building and protecting her Lakegirl brand. The clothing company began as a little gift shop down at the Shady Hollow Flea Market in 2002 and now sells to over 800 stores across the country.

"We've been very lucky. It really has grown," said Heglie.

Now, Heglie has taken another big step forward with her brand in deciding to sell it to Lakeshirts.

"The decision to sell was based very much, you know, I don't really want to say my age, but you think differently at 68 than you do when you're 40," said Heglie, adding that Lakegirl was up against a big change. "We really needed to have a professional sales team with sales reps. We needed a lot of IT help and spansion of the website and social media and all that stuff."

Rather than take that next leap, Heglie decided to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of her booming business and get back to the root of it all: spending quality time at the lake with friends and family.

"Lakeshirts, I think, was always there in the wings," said Heglie, adding that the company basically financed Lakegirl when Heglie was starting out because they provided her with her apparel and she paid Lakeshirts back as she sold it. "So I didn't have to have any money to start the business, which is very unusual."

The arrangement allowed Heglie, along with family and friends, to build this brand that really appealed to the "lake life" lifestyle. Heglie says her brand quickly built a huge following. People in the area sported the attire. People visiting the area on vacation would take a t-shirt or two home and soon enough, they'd be back for more.

To Heglie, the Lakegirl brand represented her image of lifestyle in the land of 10,000 lakes. Heglie grew up spending her summers on Lake Melissa, like so many others spent their summers visiting the area and taking to the lakes, but what she didn't realize was that this way of life related to so many more areas than just northern Minnesota.

"There were Lakegirls everywhere," said Heglie, recalling when she went to one of her first clothing shows in Atlanta, and her line was a hit. "People started to recognize it not as a word on a t-shirt but as a brand and a lifestyle."

People from all over the country had grown up spending their summers on the lake and wanted to sport the brand, which continued to grow. As it expanded, though, Heglie began to realize she needed to start protecting her idea. She bought the domain name, lakegirl, and trademarked it as well in 2004.

Many still wondered, though, if Lakegirl was connected with Lakeshirts. Both brands have built themselves up around the lake lifestyle. The Lakegirl warehouse is only a few blocks from Lakeshirts. The two seemed to go hand-in-hand to many.

"The whole time there were the questions, 'Are you part of Lakeshirts?' And I would say, 'No, but they're my friends,'" recalled Heglie, who says she has always had a close working relationship with the owners of Lakeshirts, Mark Fritz and Mike Hutchinson. "I think that was always the case, and now all of a sudden, we're a part of it."

Lakeshirts now owns the Lakegirl brand. The company purchased a whole separate building to house the production of the apparel and has acquired all seven of Heglie's Lakegirl employees, something that Heglie says has been "a good fit."

"I feel kind of sad, too, so that's an adjustment," she said, adding, "Everybody said, 'Oh, what are you going to do... you're so attached?' And I always thought that Lakegirl was just a means to an end, but I think it was more."

Heglie has two shops and a warehouse, which she will keep open. The two shops will still sell Lakegirl apparel, she will just be purchasing it from Lakeshirts now. She'll also still have a hand in the "fun stuff."

"I've designed the line for this year, so that's fun," she said. "I think I'll continue to be involved with, you know, the design of it."

She didn't want to let go of the company that grew, with the help of friends and family, around a lifestyle that's still very much a part of her life. Aside from that lake life upbringing, the creative portion of the business is still very much a part of Heglie's life as well.

"I spent my whole life making things, from the time I was a little girl. My mother taught us to sew. We made everything, and we would always sell it. We'd sell it to the neighbors or whatever," she recalled with a laugh. "I would suspect, I probably will, at some point, continue to make things."

For now, she's going into a "kind of semi-retirement," getting back to the lake life "until the next great adventure."