When Paulette Black was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, one of the things she felt unsure about was the idea of a prosthesis. She attended a retreat in Buffalo in 2002 to meet other women struggling with the disease, and it was there that she met Cathy Rieckenberg and Lorraine Dressel, owners of Underneath It All in Eden Prairie.
Rieckenberg approached Black, and the two ladies quickly formed a bond. New to the covenant of breast cancer sufferers, Black appreciated Rieckenberg’s sincerity. “[She said] we’ll take care of you; we’ll know what to do,” Black says.
Rieckenberg and Dressel, also a breast cancer survivor, met in 1988 when they worked alongside each other as home care nurses. They embarked on their earliest retail endeavor, a medical equipment company called Mobile Medical Closet. The nurses sold the company in 1990 and continued to visit homes for fitting breast prosthetics before opening their first Underneath It All location in Chanhassen in 2000–they moved to Eden Prairie in 2001.
The shop sells items unique to cancer patients that cannot be found many other places, including specialty bras, compression sleeves, sleepwear, swimwear, scarves, hats and jewelry. It also offers bra-fitting services. With their backgrounds, Rieckenberg and Dressel have more than 40 combined years of post-mastectomy-fitting experience. All fitting specialists at Underneath It All must receive their BOC mastectomy-fitter certification, and the shop offers a private area for fittings. “After we fit them, you wouldn’t know [about the surgeries],” Rieckenberg says. “It’s underneath it all.”
Underneath It All strives to meet the needs of women living with breast cancer, primarily after mastectomy, lumpectomy and reconstructive surgeries. Rieckenberg and Dressel hope to provide a spot that offers personal service and inspires self-confidence.
“We wanted to help women feel better about themselves,” Rieckenberg says. “[In most retail stores] gone are the days when you get personal service. We do that.”
Underneath It All also supports breast cancer research and the Susan G. Komen Foundation through numerous promotions and efforts. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month last October, for example, the shop held a “Bedazzle your Bra” contest, asking shoppers to vote for their favorite decorated bra. The shop also sells products that donate a portion of the proceeds to the organization, hosts occasional speakers, holds a spring open house and does “something special” for Valentine’s Day (details available on the website).
These promotions are a part of the store’s character, Black says, and are a testament to the attitude held by Rieckenberg and Dressel. “They’re always doing something to make you laugh and have fun,” she says.
The store often introduces new products, and Rieckenberg notes mastectomy products are constantly-evolving. For example, many bras and sleepwear now feature pockets for a prosthesis. Rieckenberg believes companies are beginning to gear their products to a younger crowd, sadly because breast cancer is affecting younger women today than it had in the past.
Black continues to visit Underneath it All several times each year. “I call them my angels,” she says. “They really do care about other women.”
Rieckenberg admires her shoppers’ strength and determination, most enjoying the hugs and thanks she receives from customers. She asks, “Where else can you go and make women feel good about themselves after what they go through?”
Visit Underneath it All’s website for sale announcements and updates, and follow the shop on Facebook at Underneath It All. 7942 Mitchell Road, Eden Prairie; 952.937.9252.