HEART OF STEELE
Of all the stories we’re sharing in honor of Women’s History Month, I love this one the most.
Maybe it’s because Harriet Ressler shared my mother’s first name and positive attitude. Or that she spent more than 60 years in the business of selling women’s clothing in downtown Blooming Prairie–opening the doors while her husband was serving in World War II.
I do love the entrepreneurial spirit, and Harriet Ressler had it.
According to a Blooming Prairie Times article published in 2000, her journey started in 1940, when she and her husband Frank, Jr., decided they would go into business in the former Cooley Building. Beauty salon operator Christy Jelinek encouraged Harriet to sell women’s clothing in the front of the building, while Christy’s shop occupied the back.
They shared that space for five years, until Harriet’s husband returned from the war. The couple moved into a building on Main Street, where Harriet sold women’s clothing and Frank–affectionately known as “Poogie”–sold men’s clothing.
Next door, the Ressler family operated a bowling alley.
Harriet came by her business sense naturally; her father, Alois Srsn, owned a business. And imagine the tenacity it took to be successful in the fashion world over six decades.
From the interview, it seems clear Helen managed by working hard and knowing her customers well. She also surrounded herself with employees who stayed with her for decades–one seamstress was with her for 30 years.
I thought about Helen and her decades in business as I watched a Saturday event hosted by Owatonna Business Women (OBW). Every nominee sat at a table surrounded by family and friends. Their brief biographies spoke to the ways they’ve shared their time and talents with the community.
OBW has for 51 years recognized a Woman of Achievement–this year, the honor went to Rebecca Moore. But the event space at SpareTime Entertainment was packed with scores of women and men who were there to celebrate all of the honorees, and 15 young women who received scholarships.
Eighty years ago and today, women support women like it’s just part of our DNA. And in doing so, we strengthen the heart of our community.