Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Faribault is about blankets, beer, blue cheese & a whole lot more April 28, 2016

Faribault's new promotional billboard, visible while traveling southbound along Interstate 35 near the city. Faribault is about a half hour south of the Twin Cities metro.

Faribault’s new promotional billboard, visible while traveling southbound along Interstate 35 near the city. Faribault is about a half hour south of the Twin Cities metro and about an hour from the Iowa border. Perfect for a day trip.

MY COMMUNITY OF FARIBAULT could easily fall into that grey space of endless towns perched along Interstate 35 from the Texas-Mexico border to Duluth in northeastern Minnesota.

But Faribault, pronounced fair-uh-boh, because it’s a French name, isn’t just any other community. This is a city of some 23,000 with a strong sense of history. Drive a few miles off I-35 to see the aged buildings along and branching off Central Avenue and scattered throughout town. We have historic churches (like the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour) and the historic Shattuck-St. Mary’s School and wonderful old houses.

A new billboard along I-35 hints at what you’ll discover in this southeastern Minnesota community named after founder and fur trader Alexander Faribault.

Let’s zoom in on billboard details:

Strolling along Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault late on a Saturday afternoon in December 2011.

This remains one of my all-time favorite shots of Faribault’s Central Avenue, our Main Street. It showcases the aged buildings and beauty of our historic downtown. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo, December 2011.

HISTORIC DOWNTOWN: Aged buildings, most beautifully restored, border Central Avenue for several blocks. If you appreciate old architecture, history and home-grown businesses, then you’ll enjoy our downtown.

Award-winning Amablu Gorgonzola from Caves of Faribault.

Award-winning Amablu Gorgonzola from Caves of Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

BLUE CHEESE: Award-winning blue and Gorgonzola cheeses are produced and aged in Faribault, in sandstone caves along the Straight River. I’m crazy about AmaBlu, St. Pete’s Select and AmaGorg cheeses. All are sold at The Cheese Cave, a Central Avenue retail shop that also serves up a limited menu of soup (seasonal), sandwiches, salads, pizza and more. The fresh cheese curds, flavored and plain, are a must-try. Iowa-based Swiss Valley Farms now owns the once locally-owned retail shop and cheese company.

We wanted to sample all of the beers on tap, so we ordered a flight.

Samples from a flight of F-Town beer. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

BEER: F-Town Brewing Company opened in the downtown historic district, just a half-block off Central Avenue, last summer. It’s a great addition to our community, continuing a tradition of early beer brewing in Faribault by the Fleckenstein brothers.

Perusing merchandise at the recently reopened Faribault Woolen Mill retail store.

Perusing merchandise at the Faribault Woolen Mill retail store. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

BLANKETS: The historic Faribault Woolen Mill has been weaving blankets for some 150 years. Visit The Mill Store (open daily except Sunday) and/or tour the mill (every Friday or the second Saturday of the month) along the banks of the Cannon River. This business produces quality made blankets, throws, scarves, etc., in the time-honored tradition of hands-on looming by employees who’ve been around for a long time.

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BILLBOARDS SHOWCASE only a quick visual of what any place offers. So here are additional personal recommendations from my favorites and must-see list of Faribault attractions:

This restored 1915 clock was installed on the Security State Bank Building, 302 Central Avenue, on Saturday.

This restored 1915 clock was installed in 2015 on the Security State Bank Building, 302 Central Avenue. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

ART: Stop at the Paradise Center for the Arts, a restored theater, to peruse the galleries and gift shops or to take in a show.

Admire the recently-restored Security Bank Building clock at 302 Central Avenue.

At the south end of Central Avenue, at its intersection with Division Street, admire the art throughout Buckham Memorial Library. Don’t miss the Charles Connick stained glass window, the Greek murals or the exterior clock tower.

Throughout the downtown area are numerous murals depicting scenes from Faribault history. I love this concept of combining art and history in such a highly-visible public way.

While I’ve never toured Whillock Studio, home to woodcarver Ivan Whillock, I’d suggest a visit. Locally, his work can be seen in churches, at the library and more. Noted woodcarver Marv Kaisersatt also calls Faribault home. Kaisersatt keeps a low profile. But I was lucky enough to visit his second floor downtown studio (not open to the public) several years ago when penning a magazine article.

Folks waited in line for these cupcakes.

Folks waited in line at last summer’s Faribault Farmers Market for these cupcakes from Bluebird Cakery. The business now has a storefront location at 318 Central Avenue, Suite 101. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

FOOD: Hands-down, The Signature Bar & Grill serves the best thin crust (or any) pizza in town. I always order the Italian sausage. The old-fashioned bar area is reminiscent of Cheers.

The Depot Bar & Grill, housed in an old train depot, is always a good dining choice. Warm weather outdoor dining is available on a patio next to the railroad tracks. It’s a thrill to feel the power of a train roar past only feet away.

Faribault offers many ethnic dining choices ranging from Mexican to Somali to Chinese, Thai, etc. Gran Plaza Mexican Grill downtown is a local favorite.

Fairly new to downtown Faribault is Bluebird Cakery, specializing in cupcakes (plus other sweet treats) and assorted coffees, etc. I’ve been there several times and each time it’s been super busy. Choosing cupcakes proves difficult given all of the enticing flavors.

I’m not a fan of fast food or fast food chains. But for an authentic American fast food dining experience, Faribault’s A & W still offers car hop service during the warm months. And I do love a frosty mug of A & W root beer.

New to Faribault, and hidden away in the Faribo West Mall, is Smoqehouse Restaurant. I’ve been there once and will definitely be back as I love pulled pork and other savory smoked meats. The smokey smell alone is enough to draw me in. Take note that if you want to eat here after the mall closes on say a Saturday evening, you need to use the back entrance across from the Walmart Auto Center.

Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, a family-owned shoe store along Central Avenue in Faribault.

Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, a family-owned shoe store along Central Avenue in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

SHOPPING: I’m not much of a shopper. But I do like thrift stores–you’ll find Good Will, the Salvation Army, All Seasons Community Services Thrift and Jan’s Thrift Shop in Faribault along with some used clothing shops.

Third-generation family-owned Burkhartzmeyer Shoes is a Faribault staple offering full shoe-fitting services (yes, they measure your feet and put the shoe on your foot) and shoe repair. This place is reminiscent of a bygone era when outstanding personal customer service mattered. I know nearly everyone who works here and these are salt-of-the-earth wonderful people. Shoe boxes are tied with a cotton string and you’ll even get a sucker if you want one.

We also have gift shops, antique stores, an architectural salvage business and more in our historic downtown.

Tables packed with colorful flowers fill the Faribault Garden Center.

Tables packed with colorful flowers fill the Faribault Garden Center. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

FOR THE GARDENER:

Farmer Seed and Nursery, in an aged building along Minnesota State Highway 60/Fourth Street, is a fun place to poke around for anything plant and garden related. This business has provided American gardeners with plants, bulbs, seeds, etc. for more than 120 years through its mail order catalog (also now online) business. It’s especially fun to tour during the holidays when themed Christmas trees pack the store.

Donahue’s Greenhouse is open for the season, drawing gardeners from all over to this massive family-owned greenhouse/retail shop at 420 SW Tenth Street. After a long winter, this feels like walking into summer. I get a bit overwhelmed with all of the choices at Donahue’s, thus I often shop at the smaller Faribault Garden Center or Northstar Seed & Nursery.

Twiehoff Garden & Nursery on the east side is another great choice for plants and then fresh produce throughout the growing season. Housed in a no-frills pole shed style building which lends an earthy authenticity, this 52-year-old business is operated by the friendly Twiehoff family. It’s one of my main sources for local fresh seasonal produce along with the Faribault Farmers Market.

Biking through River Bend Nature Center.

Biking through River Bend Nature Center. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

NATURE: One of my favorite places for an in-town get-away is River Bend Nature Center. Faribault also has an extensive trail system for biking and walking.

City View Park, on the east side by the water tower, offers a beautiful overlook of Faribault.

The restored Tilt-A-Whirl sits in downtown Faribault, just two blocks from Buckham Memorial Library.

The restored Tilt-A-Whirl sits in downtown Faribault next to Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, just two blocks from Buckham Memorial Library. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

HISTORY: It’s everywhere in Faribault. In the architecture of old buildings. On murals. In the Rice County Historical Society Museum. In our churches, especially The Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour. In the historic Hutchinson House Bed & Breakfast. Even in a restored Tilt-A-Whirl car located on the corner by Burkhartzmeyer Shoes. Yes, the Tilt-A-Whirl originated in Faribault and, up until a few years ago, was still made here.

I love Faribault. I’ve lived here more than half my life now. I don’t have the connection of family roots. But I do have the connection to place. Faribault is home.

DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS about Faribault? If so, ask away and I’ll try to answer.

FYI: Chambers of Commerce and tourism centers in Faribault, Owatonna and Northfield have joined in promoting visits to their communities through a Minne-Roadtrip venture. All three cities lie along the I-35 corridor, with Faribault in the middle. Click here to learn more about this promotion. I’ve explored all three communities; they are definitely worth your visit.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Focusing on festive Faribault December 11, 2015

Looking down Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault.

Looking down Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault.

IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK a lot like Christmas in historic downtown Faribault, despite the lack of snow.

Peanuts characters adorn the former Kay's Floral building on the corner of Central Avenue and Fourth Street/Minnesota State Highway 60.

A Peanuts theme plays on the windows of the former Kay’s Floral building at the corner of Central Avenue and Fourth Street/Minnesota State Highway 60.

Evergreen boughs adorn wrought iron fences. Snowflake lights and holiday banners hang from vintage style street lamps. White lights drape trees, creating a festive mood. And, throughout the downtown, merchants showcase Christmas displays in storefront windows. There’s something magical about a business district transformed for the holidays.

Lights adorn trees in the downtown including next to the Signature Bar & Grill, Faribault's version of "Cheers." Here you'll find, in my opinion, the best pizza in town.

Lights wrap trees in the downtown including next to the Signature Bar & Grill, Faribault’s version of “Cheers.” Here you’ll find, in my opinion, the best pizza in town.

A snippet of the festive window display at Vohs Floors.

A snippet of the festive window display at Vohs Floors, which celebrates 70 years in business in 2016. Harry Vohs started the business in his living room. The second-generation flooring store is owned by his son, Karl, and Karl’s wife, Ann.

Even the clothing on the mannequins in The Crafty Maven display is vintage.

The Crafty Maven created this window display for the vintage theme division of the holiday window decorating contest. The display highlights businesses that were open in Faribault when sisters and Maven owners, Beth Westerhouse and Dee Bjork, were growing up here. Many of those businesses are no longer open. The Crafty Maven also will close in January.

Wednesday evening, in balmy weather that is more September-like than December, I grabbed my camera in an attempt to capture some of the magic that is Faribault. Mine is a city of some 23,000 that takes pride in its downtown, a place of aged, well-kept buildings. There’s a sense of history here, a sense of community connection. Small town appeal.

Santa at Vohs Floors.

Santa inside Vohs Floors.

From sleigh rides to visits with Santa to a holiday window decorating contest and more, there’s much to see and do. Faribault Main Street and downtown merchants are working hard to welcome locals and visitors alike with “Hometown Holidays” events.

The Paradise Center for the Arts presents "Twice the Cheer: A Charlie Brown Christmas and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever."

Paradise Community Theatre presents “Twice the Cheer: A Charlie Brown Christmas and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” this weekend at the Paradise Center for the Arts.

This Saturday, for example, you can participate in the following activities:

Keepers Antiques

Keepers Antiques shows some holiday glitz in its window display.

Wedding and party glam spotlighted at Weddings by Deb.

Wedding and party glam spotlighted at Weddings by Deb.

Festively dressed dolls snug at sewing machine at B & J Sewing Center.

Festively dressed dolls snug a sewing machine at B & J Sewing Center.

If you’ve never been to Faribault, come, spend an afternoon and/or evening here in a city that’s all decked out for the holidays. Meander through our one-of-a-kind shops. Enjoy the hospitality of friendly merchants. Celebrate the magic of the season in southeastern Minnesota.

BONUS PHOTOS:

This winter wonderland in the window of Dufour Cleaners was voted the all-around favorite in the holiday window decorating contest.

This winter wonderland in the window of Dufour’s Cleaners was voted the all-around favorite in the holiday window decorating contest. Thousands of cotton balls were used to create the snow in the scene.

Studio 14 Salon & Spa placed first in the Peanuts themed division of the window decorating competition.

Studio 14 Salon & Spa placed first in the Peanuts theme division of the window decorating competition.

Here's the other side of the Peanuts display at Studio 14.

Here’s the other side of the Peanuts display at Studio 14.

Charlie Brown and crew also occupy a window space at the Paradise Center for the Arts.

Charlie Brown and crew also occupy a window space at the Paradise Center for the Arts. The PCA won for best vintage theme.

Nearby is this holiday display at Paul Swenson Portraits.

Nearby is this holiday window at Paul Swenson Portraits.

A vintage sled rests in a front window at Vohs Floors,

A vintage sled rests in a front window at Vohs Floors.

The Crafty Maven created this window display for the vintage themed division of the holiday window decorating contest. The display highlights businesses that were in Faribault when Maven sisters and owners Beth Westerhouse and Dee Bjork were growing up here.

An overview of the vintage themed window display at The Crafty Maven.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Part III From Albert Lea: Antiques & memories October 29, 2015

A Halloween mask for sale at Antiques of the Midwest.

One of several Halloween masks I spotted at Antiques of the Midwest in Albert Lea, Minnesota.

DO YOU REMEMBER your favorite Halloween costume? I do. I dressed like a gypsy, pulling a black cotton skirt striped with vivid hues from my mom’s closet and safety pinning it around my waist. I topped whatever blouse I wore with a winter coat. A thin elastic band on a molded plastic gypsy face mask gripped my head as I peered through cut-out eye holes. Strands of plastic beads swayed from my neck. Bangles danced on my wrists. I felt every part the care-free gypsy.

Clown masks can be scary or fun, depending.

Clown masks can be scary or fun, depending.

Memories of my brief gypsy life flitted through my thoughts as I perused Antiques of the Midwest in historic downtown Albert Lea. Among all of the merchandise in this sprawling shop, I spotted several Halloween masks. And that sparked the playback of childhood memories.

Three stacks of JC Penney catalogs dating back to the 1940s are available for purchase at Antiques of the Midwest.

Three stacks of JC Penney catalogs dating back to the 1940s are available for purchase at Antiques of the Midwest.

An Archie mask for sale.

An Archie mask for sale.

Vintage clothing proved fun to peruse.

Vintage clothing proved fun to peruse.

And isn’t that what antique stores play into—cherished memories? Nostalgia sells. Otherwise why would I care about outdated merchandise like uncomfortable plastic Halloween masks that curbed clear vision and psychedelic clothing and stacks of old JC Penney catalogs?

Although I didn't want this vintage 1960s make-up mirror, I never-the-less was drawn to it.

Although I didn’t want this vintage 1960s make-up mirror, I never-the-less was drawn to it.

When you shop at an antique store, what do you find yourself drawn to?

I hold a fondness for old glass pitchers. They are works of art.

I hold a fondness for old glass pitchers. They are works of art.

For me it’s vintage drinking glasses and tablecloths (yes, I already own too many), clocks and art. Oh, how I love a vintage print or an original. Most often, though, I buy these at garage sales or thrift stores. I have enough art that I can switch it out in my home. Often.

If only I still had that toy buggy in which I pushed dolls and cats dressed in doll clothes.

If only I still had that toy buggy in which I pushed dolls and cats dressed in doll clothes.

Filing through a rack of children’s clothing at Antiques of the Midwest, I discovered a red plaid wool skirt just like one I wore as a child. How many of you have clothes from your childhood or teenage years? While cleaning my mom’s basement several years ago, I found a pair of cuffed lime green pants worn when I was a stick thin teen. They are hanging now in the closet of a spare bedroom in my home. Someday, my children will ask, “Why did Mom keep these?” Perhaps the pants will end up in an antique store, but more likely will be trashed.

Antiques of the Midwest holds thousands of antiques and collectibles.

Antiques of the Midwest holds thousands of antiques and collectibles.

Opening the door into an antique shop compares to opening a book about life. Therein, in the collections of items from yesteryear, our stories unfold. Imagine the stories I could write if I sat in an antique store, unobserved, eavesdropping.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Just inside the front door, the canary yellow molded chairs caught my eye.

Just inside the front door, the canary yellow molded chairs caught my eye.

Mannequins always make merchandise seem more usable and personal.

Mannequins always make merchandise seem more usable and personal. I also consider them artsy.

This creative display helps shoppers to visualize this merchandise in their homes.

This creative display helps shoppers visualize merchandise in their homes.

If you're already thinking Christmas, at least one vendor has a sizable Christmas display.

If you’re already thinking Christmas, at least one Antiques of the Midwest vendor has a sizable Christmas display.

Merchandise snugged into a cabinet.

Merchandise snugged into a cabinet makes for a museum like display.

This is the first puppet I can remember finding in an antique store.

This is the first puppet I can remember finding in an antique store.

FYI: Antiques of the Midwest is open from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday – Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. It is closed on Mondays from December – March. The shop is located at 218 S. Washington Avenue in downtown Albert Lea.

This is the third in my “From Albert Lea” series. Check back for one final post. Click here to read my first and then my second story.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Bingo, bordellos and a shopkeeper named Audre August 11, 2015

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Audre's Attic, 102 Main Street, Suite 6, in Lonsdale is in a mishmash of rooms in a building next to the Lonsdale Chamber of Commerce.

Audre’s Attic, 102 Main Street, Suite 6, is in a mishmash of rooms in a building next to the Lonsdale Area Chamber of Commerce. Shop hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Thursday – Saturday.

I LOVE A SHOPKEEPER who can talk bingo and bordellos and attempt to persuade me to buy a vintage photo of unknown “relatives” all within the span of about a half hour.

An exterior sign marks Audre's shop.

An exterior sign marks Audre’s shop.

She is Audre, not Audrey, Johnson, owner of Audre’s Attic in Lonsdale. And on a recent Thursday evening, because the farmers’ market was open in this small southern Minnesota community, Audre’s shop was open later than normal. She was, though, about to lock the door when I arrived.

Audre Johnson loves to chat it up with customers. She talks with her hands while she talks. And lovely hands they are, too, with those patriotic red, white and blue polished fingernails.

Audre Johnson loves to chat it up with customers. She talks with her hands while she talks. And lovely hands they are, too, with those patriotic red, white and blue polished fingernails.

About her name. At age ten, when she learned to write cursive, Audrey determined, after an aunt misspelled her name, to drop the “y” and become just Audre. It suits this outspoken and friendly business woman with an engaging sense of humor.

The lamp Audre claims would suit a bordello. She's selling it on consignment for a friend.

The lamp Audre claims would suit a bordello. She’s selling it on consignment for a friend.

When I discovered an ornate lamp displayed on a corner table, Audre suggested it belonged in a bordello. I wondered if I’d heard right. I had, after all, only met this curator of antiques, collectibles and more miscellaneous junque.

The lamp really shown once the overhead light was switched off.

The lamp really shown once the overhead light was switched off.

Then she switched off an overhead light and I understood her thinking.

One of my favorite discoveries in Audre's Attic is this 1950s handcrafted bust. It's not for sale. Audre sold a duplicate, but only after a customer wore her down.

One of my favorite discoveries in Audre’s Attic is this vintage handcrafted bust. It’s not for sale. Audre sold a duplicate, but only after a customer wore her down.

She showed me a vintage hand-painted bust draped with a lace collar and a rabbit pull toy and a child’s toy Singer sewing machine and a rope bed and bingo cards.

Underneath the top bingo card is the bingo card photo frame Audre crafted. And below that is a notebook where customers can jot down items they are searching for.

Underneath the stack of bingo cards is the bingo card photo frame Audre crafted. And below that is a notebook where customers can jot down items they are searching for.

About those bingo cards. A friend told her selling gambling related merchandise is illegal. True or not, Audre wasn’t gambling. She cut a bingo card into a frame, inserted a photo and, ta-da, she’s selling a picture frame.

The sales tag on this vintage photo reads, "Need relatives?"

The sales tag on this vintage photo reads, “Need relatives?”

Despite her best efforts, Audre did not persuade me to purchase a framed sepia photo of a handsome couple. I told her I already had enough family.

Audre's office and display space merge in this room.

Audre’s office and display space merge in this room.

And that’s how things flowed, with Audre inserting wit into conversation like we were long-time friends rather than two women who’d just met.

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BONUS PHOTOS of select merchandise in Audre’s Attic:

 

Audre's Attic, hat on yellow head

 

Audre's Attic, jump rope

 

Audre's Attic, dollhouse

 

Audre's Attic, hallway displays

 

Audre's Attic, bowls

 

Audre's Attic, horse

 

Audre's Attic, sign on floor

 

FYI: Check back for photos from Jim’s Antiques and Collectibles, another Lonsdale shop I visited.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Pearl Button Primitives: A gem of a shop in Waseca July 18, 2014

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I’VE SHOPPED COUNTLESS antique shops in my life.

Looking toward the front of Pearl Button Primitives.

Looking toward the front of Pearl Button Primitives.

But never have I seen one as artistically inclined as Pearl Button Primitives in downtown Waseca.

A candy display rack repurposed.

A candy display rack repurposed.

Shopping here is like perusing an art gallery or perhaps a museum curated by someone with an artistic flair.

This setting seems the perfect prompt for a story.

This setting seems the perfect prompt for a story.

I expect that’s because Justine Meyer possesses an educational background in art. It shows in the way she artfully arranges merchandise in snippet scenes that catch the eye.

A backdrop of vintage magazine pages create visual interest.

A backdrop of vintage magazine pages create visual interest.

Afghans and quilts brighten walls. Vintage ads and magazine pages make for unique merchandise backdrops. Rows of 45 rpm vinyl records precisely arranged on a wall appear pop art style. A vintage suitcase holds Carolyn Keene’s The Mystery of the Ivory Charm, Zane Grey’s Nevada and other old books. Plastic magnetic letters—the type my kids once plastered to the front of the fridge—provide a visual pop of color in a chest of drawers. I wonder whether my eldest would appreciate one of the maps splayed across the wall.

The back room.

The back room.

There’s so much to take in here that I really needed more than the 20 minutes I wandered through the shop on a recent Saturday afternoon. But Justine and crew (friends are part of the business, too) were already plucking up merchandise that had been hauled out back for an alley garage sale when I arrived late. They are clearing out, making way for new stuff and promise more such sales. I figured I best not linger too long.

Beautiful pairing of colors.

Beautiful setting just makes me want to scoop up these dishes.

Pearl Button Primitives describes itself as “an eclectic mix of antiques and primitives; featuring vintage jewelry & buttons, linens, architectural salvage, furniture, pottery, and other gathered treasures all lovingly displayed.”

A little quirky, a little scary.

Quirky.

In the tight space of this shop, antiques and collectibles abound. Quirky doll heads with open and shut eyes remind me of my favorite childhood doll.

It takes an artist's eye to pair this coat with this afghan.

It takes an artist’s eye to pair this coat with this afghan. Textures and contrast of color make this work.

Milk bottles and vintage jewelry pins and wash tubs and dainty floral hankies and dishes and a lovely coat and so much more draw my interest.

Symmetry and simplicity makes this display work.

Repetition and simplicity. Perfect.

But it is the artsy displays, the attention to detail, the obvious time and care invested here which most impress me.

There's something about this portrait of a determined, defiant woman with an attitude that I love.

There’s something about this portrait of a determined, defiant woman with an attitude that I love.

This shop makes a memorable imprint. Just like the “Woman with an attitude,” as I’ve dubbed the hands-on-hips woman in a portrait showcased at the front of the store. Love that painting.

The narrow space that connects the front of the shop to the back.

The narrow space that connects the front of the shop to the back.

Love this shop.

FYI: Pearl Button Primitives, 206 N. State Street, Waseca, is open from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, but not year-round. Best check before you visit. Click here to reach the shop’s website and here to reach the Facebook page. Phone: 507-461-1648.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

One hip, vintage & retro shop in Neenah, Wisconsin April 29, 2014

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The signage on Vintique, 131 West Wisconsin Avenue, Neenah, Wisconsin.

The signage on Vintique, 131 West Wisconsin Avenue, Neenah, Wisconsin.

I LOVE THIS BOUTIQUE in downtown Neenah, Wisconsin.

Audrey's Closet, likely named after Audrey Hepburn and not me, holds vintage 50s clothing.

Audrey’s Closet, likely named after Audrey Hepburn and not me, holds vintage 50s clothing.

Not just because a section of vintage 1950s clothing is tucked into a space labeled Audrey’s Closet.

Love Story framed.

Love Story framed.

And not simply because of the Love Story album cover framed and posted on a stairway wall. Love Story, released in 1970, rates as one of my favorite movies. I was 14 then, falling for Ryan O’Neal and this heart-tugging love story co-starring Ali MacGraw. I tacked a poster of the couple onto the lime green walls of my basement bedroom with the candy striped carpet.

I digress. Sort of.

A vintage 1950s wardrobe in Audrey's Closet.

A vintage 1950s wardrobe in Audrey’s Closet.

Vintique, LLC, elicits this type of response—this embracing of the past—with the merchandise offered here. If you appreciate vintage, antique, boutique and unique, then this is your kind of shop. Vintique.

My daughter tried on the elegant black dress along the far wall in this room full of vintage clothing.

My daughter tried on the elegant black dress along the far wall in this  second floor room full of vintage and retro clothing and other merchandise.

If not for my daughter Miranda, who lives in neighboring Appleton, I likely never would have discovered this shop in the heart of a cozy downtown that features a mix of historic and modern buildings. How well she knows me and my appreciation of vintage.

Clothing from the 1960s found in the Laugh-in & Goldie's Style Closet.

Clothing from the 1960s found in the Laugh-in & Goldie’s Style Closet.

Now if only I was a few decades younger and dress sizes smaller, I’d feel comfortable in the actual and replica retro and vintage clothing sold at Vintique. But I’m well past the age of trying to look young and hip. Some older women can carry that off; I’m not one of them.

Just look at those prints...

Just look at those prints…

That didn’t stop me, though, from gushing over the vintage and retro clothing and accessories. Had you listened in, you would have overheard me saying, “If I was looking for a prom dress…if I was getting married…if I was going to a summer wedding…if I was younger…”

Vintage white pumps for a special occasion.

Vintage white pumps for a special occasion perch on a shelf above a rack of clothes.

Not that age should stop anyone from shopping Vintique. Had I really searched, I’m certain I would have found something that fit me and suited my style and age.

 

Vintage jewelry galore.

Vintique rates as one cool (yes, I am a child of the 70s) place with other funky finds like vintage jewelry,

 

A funky hat.

hats,

 

Vintage shoes

shoes and purses;

Little people

Little People key chains; pillows; art; and more.

A section of Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Neenah, Wisconsin.

A section of Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Neenah, Wisconsin.

Vintique, at 131 West Wisconsin Avenue.

Downtown Neenah features historic buildings.

Downtown Neenah features historic buildings.

That’s in Neenah, south of Appleton, southwest of Green Bay.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Shopping local: My beautiful vintage floral art find March 10, 2014

Crewel embroidery floral art, looking up

IT’S SIMPLY A STUNNING piece. Stitched flowers, artfully arranged, springing from a blue vase.

I was beyond tempted to keep the crewel embroidered floral art for myself.

But, instead, I would present it to my eldest who, for her 28th birthday, requested thrift art. She knows my knack for finding great original art at thrift shops, garage sales and elsewhere. I’d been searching for awhile for her gift, to no avail.

So I conceded that, until I found the perfect piece, she’d need to settle for a bouquet of real flowers. Fresh flowers are always welcome and would be a great way for my husband and I to thank our daughter and her husband for inviting us to lunch at their St. Paul apartment.

Remember to shop local as noted in this mat at the entrance to The Nook & Cranny. Edited photo.

Remember to shop small local stores as noted in this entry mat at The Nook & Cranny. Edited photo.

The day before the lunch date, Randy and I stopped downtown Faribault for St. Pete’s Select blue cheese from the Cheese Cave. Our son-in-law loves this locally-made cheese. And while we were on Central Avenue, I would pop into a floral shop for flowers.

Crewel embroidery floral art, front

But, before I even exited the car, I noticed that stunning floral art in the front window of  The Nook & Cranny, a gift shop which features vintage, collectible and handcrafted merchandise.

The Nook & Cranny, 412 Central Avenue, Faribault, Minnesota.

The Nook & Cranny, 412 Central Avenue, Faribault, Minnesota.

I beelined for the store, my husband trailing. When he read the price tag on the artwork, my excitement diminished. It was priced way higher than I expected or wanted to pay. Art, but not exactly thrift art. As is typical of me, I debated whether I should spend that kind of money. I circled the store, fingering other merchandise, my thoughts never far from that floral art in the window.

Crewel embroidery floral art, side view

To make the potential purchase even more enticing, the shopkeeper shared its history. The floral art was created as a wedding gift some 75 years ago by a mother-in-law. Now no one in the family wanted the long ago gift nor two other crewel embroidered pieces, also for sale in The Nook & Cranny.

That history, combined with a comment by my spouse that real flowers would last perhaps a week, made the decision final. Our daughter would have this art forever.

The Nook & Cranny is among numerous one-of-a-kind locally-owned specialty shops in historic downtown Faribault.

The Nook & Cranny is among numerous one-of-a-kind locally-owned specialty shops in historic downtown Faribault.

So I meandered to the back room and, in an atypical move, asked the shopkeeper whether she would consider dropping the price. She did, by 10 percent. That was just enough. I knew, too, if I didn’t buy this vintage art with its wonderful history, I would regret my decision.

This crewel embroidery art, crafted by the same woman who created the floral I purchased, now hangs in the front window of the Nook & Cranny.

This 1970s vintage crewel embroidery art, crafted by the same woman who created the floral I purchased, now hangs in the front window of The Nook & Cranny. I photographed this through the window when the shop was closed, thus the glare on the glass. If you buy this art, tell them I sent you.

Truly, this art was meant to be purchased by me and gifted to my eldest. I am convinced of that. I know she will treasure it. When she saw the art for the first time, her enthusiasm was genuine.

Table setting

Besides that, when we arrived at her and her husband’s apartment for Sunday lunch, a bouquet of fresh flowers already adorned the dining room table.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

One sweet antique shop in Mankato, on the way to Hiniker (not Golden) Pond January 16, 2014

Love these letters showcased at Pond Road Antiques.

Love these letters showcased at Pond Road Antiques.

I DON’T RECALL exactly when I began to appreciate antique stores. It certainly was not in my 20s or 30s, nor probably even in my early 40s.

But now, closer to age 60 than to 50, I’ve developed a fondness for these shops that hold memories of my past. Nostalgia sells.

Not all antiques shops are created equal, though. Too much old stuff stuffed inside a dark, cramped and musty building overwhelms me. Artfully arranged merchandise in sufficient light draws me for a closer look.

Inside Pond Road Antiques.

Inside Pond Road Antiques.

Pond Road Antiques, just off Highway 169 at 111 Butterworth Street in Mankato, ranks as one of the most visually appealing antique shops I’ve shopped. While the exterior, a fancied-up new pole shed style building, doesn’t fit the merchandise inside, don’t judge a book by its cover. Inside you will find 38 dealers showcasing their wares in a visually pleasing way. Think designer display.

Here are a few photos of the merchandise (I failed to photograph the exterior) shot this past summer after a stop at nearby Hiniker Pond Park, where my poem, “The Thrill of Vertical,” is currently posted as part of the Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride. (Click here to learn about that poetry project.)

"The Thrill of Vertical," located next to Hiniker Pond.

My poem, “The Thrill of Vertical,” located next to Hiniker Pond.

I’d suggest a jaunt to Mankato to check out that poetry, scattered throughout Mankato and North Mankato, and to peruse the appropriately-named Pond Road Antiques.

My husband, Randy, and I were thrilled to find this vintage straw cowboy hate. We reminisced for awhile about watching Westerns on TV and getting new cowboy hats each summer.

My husband, Randy, and I were thrilled to find this vintage straw cowboy hat. We reminisced for awhile about watching Westerns on TV and getting new cowboy hats each summer while growing up.

With a soon-to-be son-in-law with the last name of Schmidt, I find myself drawn to Schmidt beer collectibles.

With my eldest now married to a Schmidt, I find myself drawn to Schmidt beer stuff.

I nearly flipped when I saw this toy accordion, just like one I had as a child. I loved my accordion and it is the only musical instrument I've ever played.

I nearly flipped when I saw this toy accordion, just like one I had as a child. I loved my accordion. It is the only musical instrument I ever had the opportunity to play. I should have bought this although, if I recall correctly, the price was higher than I wanted to pay. But how I would love that toy accordion…

Unusual for sure and, well, I've always thought grasshoppers were interesting insects to watch.

Unusual for sure and, well, I’ve always thought grasshoppers are interesting insects to watch. Grasshoppers were everywhere on my native prairie when I was growing up. I love how items like this are being repurposed as art.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE antique shop?

FYI: Pond Road Antiques is open from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Saturday and from noon – 5 p.m. Sundays.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Northfield, Minnesota: All decked out for Christmas December 26, 2013

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A snippet of Division Street in downtown Northfield shortly before Christmas.

A snippet of Division Street in downtown Northfield shortly before Christmas.

NORTHFIELD, IN MY OPINION, rates as one of southern Minnesota’s most visually appealing and charming river towns.

Nestled along the banks of the Cannon River, this college community of some 20,000 is historically-known as the place where the James-Younger Gang met its defeat during a failed bank robbery.

Merchandise displayed outside of an antique store.

Merchandise displayed outside of an antique store.

The draw for many to Northfield, though, are the one-of-a-kind artsy shops and eateries dotting Division Street, the main downtown route bordered by primarily historic buildings.

Santa wasn't in when I stopped at Bridge Square. But kids can meet with the Jolly Old Man in his very own holiday shack.

Santa wasn’t in when I stopped at Bridge Square. But kids can meet with the Jolly Old Man in his very own holiday shack.

On a recent Sunday afternoon before Christmas, I strolled along a portion of one block over to the town center, Bridge Square, to capture the holiday scene.

Detailed holiday signage draws shoppers into businesses.

Detailed holiday signage draws shoppers into businesses.

Northfield merchants know how to do Christmas right. It’s in the details—the words and colors and designs and ambiance—creating an aesthetically-pleasing set that draws you into the scene.

A scene in the bakery window.

A scene in the bakery window.

Another view of that bakery window.

Another view of that bakery window with historic buildings reflected.

The front door of the Electic Goat and

The front window and door of the Eclectic Goat and Glass Garden Beaads.

Back to the antique store...

Back to the antique store…

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Antiquing in Wisconsin: Mixing machining & merchandising in Redgranite December 2, 2013

I RECOGNIZE THE SMELL. Grease and oil and dirt mingled. The odor hangs heavy inside Mike Schwochert’s machine shop along State Highway 21 in Redgranite, Wisconsin.

Inside Old Time Machine Inc.

Inside Old Time Machine Inc.

The shop smells of history and hard labor and of hours standing upon this cracked cement floor spotted with oil stains.

This place reminds me of the work my husband does as an automotive machinist, although Mike pursues a different type of machining, producing machined parts. He does drilling, boring, tapping, milling, tool and die production, welding and fabrication, and more.

The setting that drew me into the machine and antique shop scene.

The setting that drew me into the machine and antique shop scene.

It is the name of Mike’s business—Old Time Machine Inc—and the neon marker OPEN sign and the hodgepodge of furniture, glassware, gas cans and other items displayed outside the building that initially draw Randy and me here on a Friday afternoon in mid-October en route to Appleton to visit our daughter.

We backtrack, turn off the highway and skirt the backs of downtown Redgranite businesses to reach Old Time Machine because we’ve driven past it. Highway 21 is a crazy busy route through central Wisconsin, meaning it’s safer to do a turn-around rather than slam on the brakes.

Another view of Mike's machine shop.

Another view of Mike’s machine shop.

Inside this building, constructed in 1953, we meet Mike, the kind of guy who, just looking at him, you know will greet you with a welcoming warmth and friendliness that shows in his face, in his smile. It’s no surprise that he promises “excellence and precision in every job,” offers 24-hour emergency repair and works a second job in Appleton.

Madre's Antiques is in the front of the building and Mike's machine shop through the doorway into the larger back space.

Madre’s Antiques is in the front of the building and Mike’s machine shop (that’s Mike back there working) through the doorway into the larger back space.

And you might add third. On this afternoon, Mike is also manning Madre’s Antiques, his wife Christina Tsacudakis’ shop. She took over the former office, a small area at the front of the building that now holds an array of antiques and vintage collectibles.

A local collectible is among the offerings.

A Redgranite collectible is among the offerings.

I find plenty here that interests me such as vintage drinking glasses, a pheasant tray collectible my middle brother would appreciate and a gorgeous red and white enamel kitchen table.

In the white cupboard behind the table sits the small striped Pyrex bowl I purchased.

In the white cupboard behind the table the small striped Pyrex bowl I purchased sits on the second shelf.

I need none of these, But I scoop up a small unpriced striped Pyrex mixing bowl because, well, I collect and use old bowls.

When I ask Mike the price, he admits that he sometimes gets in trouble for underselling his wife’s unmarked merchandise. I buy the bowl for $2. I expect he will be reprimanded.

The fabulous reclaimed parts bins now hold antiques and collectibles.

The fabulous reclaimed parts bin, left, from the machine shop now holds antiques and collectibles.

It’s a charming spot, this cozy antiques store with a back shop parts cubby emptied, cleaned, repainted aqua marine and repurposed to hold merchandise. Small treasures tucked inside multi-sized cubes. Perfectly fitting for this place.

My first view of the shop as we approached from the west.

My first view of the shop, 250 W. Bannerman Ave., as we approached from the west.

Unlike many antique shops, I don’t feel overwhelmed here, but rather at home. Comfortable with the limited offerings, the lingering odors of oil and grease and grime, and the sense of small town history that prevails in this long-time machine shop, purchased in recent years by Mike.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling