‘Frog Lady’ sets up shop in Wading River

Brigitte Horstmann and her daughter Nancy Koehler recently opened Frog Lady, a handbag, clothing and accessories boutique, in Wading River.
SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Brigitte Horstmann and her daughter Nancy Koehler recently opened Frog Lady, a handbag, clothing and accessories boutique, in Wading River.

Brigitte Horstmann has been a roving saleswoman at flea markets around the East End for about five years.

While the 71-year-old Riverhead resident will continue making pit stops to sell, she recently decided her products need a more permanent home.

Ms. Horstmann and her daughter, Nancy Koehler, 46, opened a brand new boutique on Sound Road in Wading River late last month. They call it Frog Lady.

“This has always been my dream, but I never had enough money to do it,” Ms. Horstmann said, adding that she doesn’t necessarily have the money now. “It’s going to be make it or break it.”

Ms. Horstmann sells tiny ceramic frogs at her flea markets and her regular customers began calling her Frog Lady, which is also the name of her registered flea market business.

The boutique in Wading River carries all the products she sells at flea markets in her 10-by-10-foot plots — which became crowded as Frog Lady’s popularity grew — and a few more.

They sell handbags, wallets, jewelry, scarves, accessories and Long Island-themed clothing, which Ms. Horstmann embellishes with rhinestones.

The mother and daughter business team say they’re best friends and go on ritual shopping trips on Mondays, but they stay in separate corners when it comes to the store. Ms. Horstmann is in charge of the buying end of their new business and Ms. Koehler, a Bayport resident, manages the store.

“I trust her with all this,” Ms. Horstmann said from behind the counter at Frog Lady, gesturing to her daughter as about a dozen silver bangle bracelets jingled on her wrist.

Ms. Horstmann said she pores through pages of fashion magazines, scouting for the latest designs and purchases replicas of high-end handbags and accessories from wholesale vendors in California and China.

Ms. Horstmann and Ms. Koehler said Wading River has been a good spot for their store so far, and that residents are rooting for the mother-daughter duo to succeed.

“They like having us in the area,” Ms. Koehler said. “They don’t have another little boutique like this.”

The store is currently open from Thursday to Sunday, since Ms. Horstmann works full time as a sales associate at a department store in Southampton and continues to sell at flea markets, and Ms. Koehler takes care of her daughters. They say they’ll extend hours of operation depending on customer response.

Ms. Horstmann thinks her mom’s reputation will help the business flourish.

“We’ll be walking around the mall and someone will say, ‘Hey, it’s the Frog Lady from the flea market,’” Ms. Koehler said. “Everybody knows her.”

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