David Rule and Christopher Clawson, the new owners of the LadyBug Shop off Northwest Front Street, are hoping to attract more foot traffic to their downtown boutique, which celebrates the state insect.

Ask any Delawarean about the state bird and they'll readily identify the blue hen.

But ask about the state insect and you might be met with a blank stare, even in Milford where the movement to recognize the ladybug began 30 years ago.

David Rule and Christopher Clawson, the new owners of the LadyBug Shop off Northwest Front Street, say they're hoping to change that.

"Some of our customers are fanatical about ladybugs, but even they don't always make the connection," Clawson said. "Our goal is to make the community more aware of the local connection, as well as our shop right here in the heart of Milford."

Founded by Milford residents Rhonda and Dan Bond in 2003, the LadyBug Shop offers hundreds of ladybug-themed items ranging from plush stuffed animals and picture frames to teapots and garden decorations. The store also offers similar turtle-themed items under the name Turtle Treasures.

Currently, the boutique does about 80 percent of its business online, Clawson said.

"We ship a lot to Australia, Puerto Rico and Canada, although it's mostly because the ladybug also is associated with good luck" he said. "But now we're hoping to increase the foot traffic here in our downtown shop and raise awareness among the community that the ladybug is part of the local history."

Although five other states also claim the ladybug as their official insect, Delaware became the first to adopt the colorful beetle in 1974 thanks to an intensive push by teacher Mollie Brown-Rust and her second-grade class at Lulu Ross Elementary School.

The launch of the LadyBug Shop coincided with the city's first Bud & Bug Festival, a now-annual celebration of that history.

Rule and Clawson said they plan to mark the tenth anniversary of the event on April 27 with a grand re-opening of the shop they purchased from the Bonds last month.

"We're planning a big open house after the festival so the community can come see the new things we're doing here, which hopefully will make them want to come back on a regular basis," Rule said.

The couple, who originally hail from Michigan but moved here from New York City last year to take jobs as innkeepers at the Bonds' The Tower Bed and Breakfast, said they're planning to reorganize and spruce up the shop, add new merchandise, lower prices and include an art gallery to show off Rule's paintings. Clawson also will be selling copies of his two novels, "Bless Me Father" and "The Trade."

"We want to broaden our clientele and expand our lines to include frogs and other reptiles and insects that traditionally relate to luck," Rule said. "Milford has been very lucky for us. Everyone we've met has been welcoming and supportive, and we're hoping to make all of Milford feel just as welcome here."


WHERE 23 N.W. Front St.

HOURS 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays

WEBSITE www.ladybug-shop.com

PHONE (302) 422-5470