As much as you may want to deny it, the holiday shopping season is here, but don’t stress. Shopping for friends and family can be fun, and these great local establishments provide many opportunities to make the whole family happy, while on your shopping excursion. Find the perfect gift for that special person at these fine businesses.
LARK TOYS, Kellogg (www.larktoys.com) LARK Toys is best described as a unique confluence of streams. The competent, talented staff members manufacture heirloom wooden toys on site; they carefully select toys, books, games, puzzles, gifts, science and art kits, and more. “We offer rides every 30 minutes on our Carousel, hand-carved from Minnesota basswood. We make our own fudge, stock an old-fashioned candy store, and offer sandwiches, snacks, and terrific ice cream,” explained Co-Owner Miranda Gray-Burlingame. The Memory Lane antique toy museum reminds one of his or her favorite toys from childhood. In the fall of 2019, LARK opened a new event center; with a dance floor, stage, and kitchen, for Nia and yoga, musical events, and rentals. “We are honored to welcome visitors from across the country and around the world, people of all ages, family groups, and friends,” Gray-Burlingame added. The work shop houses a new wooden Mrs. Claus puzzle for the holidays. Many families put the puzzles on the mantle for the season. And the LARK folks are also quite fond of Kaos soccer balls. They come in all sorts of colors, including gold. LARK Toys is family-owned and operated, and the choices they make are influenced in the staff’s desire to promote play for uplifting, healing, connecting, and fun. It is easy to spend several hours at LARK, basking in the creativity and perusing the entirety of this phenomenal store. The holidays are a fantastic time to visit LARK. The store is decorated, people are cheery, and holiday spirit is in the air. In the 20,000-plus square feet of toys, books, games, and experiences, it’s easy to find unique and meaningful gifts for people of all ages. “Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we offer a free LARK Toys T-shirt for each $100 spent, and a free LARK mug for every $150 spent!” exclaimed Miranda.
CHRISTMAS ON MAIN, Le Sueur; Christmas on Main arrives on Friday, December 6, from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. Christmas Boutique is held in the Valleygreen Square Mall on Friday, December 6 from 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, December 7, from 9:00 a.m. to noon. Handmade and unique gift items available from local crafters and vendors. Make it a full day after shopping with Lights Parade with 30-plus units at 6:00 p.m., Friday. Parade begins on North Main Street. Community Christmas Tree Lighting – following Lights Parade at Mothers Louise Park. All sponsored by The Le Sueur Rotary and City of Le Sueur. Mankato State University Carolers will perform at Mothers Louise Park before and after the Christmas Tree Lighting, which is sponsored by Ag-Quest MN River Insurance. Fireworks following Christmas Tree Lighting from River Park, sponsored by The Bar and Green Mill Bar. Various local businesses provide refreshments on the Pedestrian Mall or near their places of business throughout the evening activities. This event is a great way to relax and celebrate the holiday season with friends and family, in a warm and welcoming community.
BARTON’S BRICKHOUSE BOUTIQUE, The Barton Brickhouse Boutique, owned and operated by AmericInn of Wabasha, is located at the intersection of 2nd street and Bailey Ave., across from the VFW in Wabasha, and was opened for business in 2017. On-premise owner is Carolynn Klees, and the manager is Barb Hansen. The BBB carries every-day décor, farm and ranch décor, kitchen and bath items, rugs, antiques, towels, candles, seasonal décor and a whole lot more. “We have a very wide customer base and our customers range from the age of 20-to-70-years old,” Klees said. The popular items for the holiday season are the rustic bells, Gnomes, red trucks, snow globes with different scenes, and lamas. The Boutique is unique because it is set up in a Historic Brickhouse with big, pocket doors, wood floors and beautiful porches. In December, there is a 25%-off sale, so be sure to stop and pick up some great bargains for the holidays. (open Wednesdays thru Sundays, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.).
DODGE COUNTY COWBOY CHURCH, Dodge County Cowboy Church is in its 4th year in southern Minnesota. This year’s event is Sunday, December 8, at Mid-town Center Assembly Hall, 104 1st Street NW, Dodge Center. Cowboy Church ministry has been going a long time and represents itself in many ways across the world. It is a para church organization, often meeting at places other than churches. “We are now using the old Dodge Center School, meeting in the Assembly Hall, otherwise known as the old cafeteria,” spokesperson Marette Jorgenson offered. Charles Schaal and Marette Jorgenson were the original founders of the Dodge County Cowboy Church, but many other people make it work. Volunteer musicians are Gary Froiland, Linda Wenzel, Renee Larson, Larry Erickson, Charles Schaal, Marette Jorgenson, with many others coming to step in and play. Cowboy Church is about an hour of bluegrass, old western country music, mostly in the gospel genre; with guitars, stand-up bass, banjo, mandolins, fiddles and harmonica. The evening starts with a welcome and prayer and then the musicians alternate playing and singing. Sometimes there is a congregational song or two – typically old gospel songs. There is usually a devotion by Charles about a Texas cowboy named Rowdy, and the lessons he has learned in the years of living in Texas. There are usually snacks and people do plenty of mingling. “For Cowboy Christmas, we are pulling vendors from around the area and having a time of music, singing, selling goods and eating, from 4-8. Cowboy Church will be from 6-7. There will be two groups singing from 4-6,” Jorgenson said. Vendors include: Cupcakes by Carli (caramels, honey, paparazzi accessories); Prairie Girl Designs; MN Cowgirl; Scentsy; Color Street Nails; Pampered Chef; Bangles; Wood Barn Crafts; two authors and some western Minnesota flannels.
MARKETPLACE @ 416, Northfield; Marketplace @ 416 opened two years ago, and it is owned by Carol Fredrickson. Carol’s husband, Steve, operates the shop 6-7 days a week as Carol’s daily “volunteer”. Steve and Carol’s high school student grandson, Zach, has proven himself as a friendly and competent shopkeeper, typically running the show on Saturdays. “We describe Marketplace @ 416 as Vintage, Upcycled & New. We have approximately 3,000 sq.-feet of shop space located directly above Hogan Bro’s. Acoustic Cafe. Shoppers are often heard commenting on the delicious, fresh bread smells that we enjoy as they bake it up daily,” explained Fredrickson. The shop has a wide variety of items with 12 vendors, each bringing their own distinctive line of specialties. Some of the vendors offer things to wear such as wool sweaters, upcycled mittens, vintage & contemporary clothes and military uniforms. There’s a huge variety of everything for the home, hobby or collection; like vintage and painted furniture, antique hardware & old tools, vintage toys and games, vintage seasonal decor, hot collectibles like Pyrex, uranium glass, lighted beer signs and so much more. “When shoppers choose an item from our shop, they’re not only getting something unique and special, they are supporting an idea of preservation and recycling, rather than contributing to the disposable culture,” Carol mentioned. That gives our very grateful, small-business owners and vendors the means to keep bringing our community more treasures. Another fun feature that has created a number of frequent repeat visits is the ‘shop dog’ dachshund, Beau. Kids, college students and many others, stop in for their ‘Beau cuddle time therapy’ on a regular basis.
STOCKING STUFFER SALE, Winona; This is the 3rd year of the Stocking Stuffer Sale in Winona. The event is at the East End Rec Center, Winona, from 11:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m., Sunday, December 8.; and is coordinated by Shannon and Mike Doberstein, and Rebecca Hei. The Winona American Legion Riders also play a large part in the festivities. The sale, at 210 Zumbro Street, Winona, has an on-site food booth, provided by American Legion Riders; and photos with Santa; The merchants: River City Bling, Norwex, Pampered Chef, Scentsy, Thirty-One, Lilla Rose, Tastefully Simple, Carly’s Closet, Paparazzi, L’Bri, Color Street, USBorne Books, Magnolia & Vine, Perfectly Posh, Jafra, Organo Gold. There will be baked goods and foods, pet items, wreaths, kettle corn, air plants, jewelry, doll clothing, hats, light-up blocks, baby items, scrub tops, wood signs, metal yard art, blankets, accessories, aprons, soaps, salt lamps, wood crafts, oils, custom tumblers, and much more. “Our entire event is family-friendly and all items are giftable. Our goal is to have a wide variety of businesses that you can check many names off of your shopping list when you visit us,” explained Shannon. The vendors this year will be offering: designed drinkware, handmade baby items, jewelry, fishing lures, cooking wares, clothing, prepackaged treats and beverages, home décor, children’s toys, and much more! There are over 40 different businesses on-hand. Some of the proceeds are donated to a community fund for the local food shelf. Last year’s efforts raised more than $700. “I love this event. It really is a whole year commitment to pull it off, and we all work hard for it. I want each year to be better than the last, and I want everyone to remember how much fun they had!” Shannon exclaimed.
TREATS AND TREASURES, Lake City; Paul and Jil Garry opened Treats and Treasures in May of 1993. After nearly 18 years in the original location, they moved around the corner a few years ago in order to expand the shop and allow for more varied merchandise. “We currently have six employees, ranging from teens to senior citizens, who work as an amazing team to provide our customers a pleasant shopping experience. One of the most difficult questions we are asked by first time visitors is, “what’s upstairs?” We offer such a wide variety of merchandise, that it’s difficult to summarize in a few words,” Jil explained. What began as a shop selling hand-made confections, souvenirs and gifts; has expanded to include women’s apparel, decor, and kitchen wares. “Customers tell us they like our store because we offer products that they don’t see everywhere and because we carry so many Minnesota products, ranging from local art to honey. I also love the frequent customer comments I get about our helpful and friendly staff,” added Jil Garry.
A HANDMADE CHRISTMAS—INDIE MAKER MARKET Austin’s Hormel Historic Home; A Handmade Christmas—Indie Maker Market, is in its seventh year in Austin, MN; and the last five years it has been held at the Hormel Historic Home. The venue is a draw on its own, as the mansion is all decked out for Christmas, and shoppers are able to tour the upstairs during the event. Kristy Rooney is the organizer and also owner of Zarooka Candle Co, a vendor at the show. AHC was started by several makers who wanted both a quality market to sell their wares at and to create a shopping event similar to the indie maker events in the Twin Cities. Each year a jury decides on the 35-plus makers and artists who will be invited to participate. Every vendor is either a maker or artist and the jury looks for new, fun, quality goods to keep the market fresh. It has become a holiday tradition that the community looks forward to. “We strive to have something for everyone. There’s nothing inspiring by roaming the aisles of a big box store trying to find something that will pass as a thoughtful gift. Our shoppers come every year because they know they are going to find original, great gifts that can’t be captured anywhere else. Our whole purpose is for shoppers to be able to cross everyone off their list with items they are excited to give, while supporting local makers,” Rooney said. Men tend to be the hardest to buy for, so there is Montplaisir Studios, with their original art t-shirts, C & L Studios, with hand-crafted wood pizza peels and cribbage boards; Rehatched, with recycled fabric rugs, and several natural soap and body companies with products specifically made with men in mind. Over half of the purchases made by shoppers at A Handmade Christmas have no intention of making it under the tree…they are treasures for the shoppers themselves. “Sometimes the best gifts are the ones we get ourselves!” Rooney added. Friday night has a very festive feel. Shoppers get their friends together and plan a night out around it. There are appetizers from Peppered Cow and any ticket bought online comes with a free wine/drink ticket from the cash bar. Your Friday ticket will also let you come back on Saturday. Saturday morning, the first 30 through the door will get a limited edition “Handmade Minnesota” pint glass, and lunch at a reasonable price, is offered by the Hormel House volunteers. The upstairs of the Hormel Historic Home is open to tour during the market. Come meet the fantastic makers of our Midwest and create a new tradition. You can get all the info and buy tickets at: AHandmadeChristmas.com. [A Handmade Christmas– Indie Maker Market; Hormel Historic Home, Austin, MN; Friday, Dec 6, 4-8 pm, $10 (weekend pass); Saturday, Dec 7, 9 am-3 pm, $5].
By Pat Garry, Contributing Writer