Attention, ladies: Call, text, or email a girlfriend—or two, or three, or more—to plan a “small shops of Duluth” day during the next few months. Tucked away in neighborhoods throughout Duluth and surrounding towns are dozens of small shops where you can find treasures not available in big box stores. Many of these charming little shops focus on selling goods created and produced locally rather than from far across the world; they feature one-of-a-kind pieces made by area artists and craftspeople who work with all kinds of media. In fact, one day of exploring might not be enough—you may need to plan a weekend for this unique and fun shopping extravaganza.
Here’s the scoop on just a few spots you’ll want to check out:
IN DULUTH’S DOWNTOWN
Lester River Trading Co., at 28 North Third Ave. West, is a great place to find repurposed furniture, from elegant, to antique-looking, to funky. You’ll find Chalk Country paint, home goods including candles and candle holders, lamps, antique dishes, pillows, embroidered and antique linens, wall hangings, shower curtains and bath goods, hand-painted mirrors and windows and baby blankets and accessories.
Beth Sundberg is owner, and she started her treasure-selling career by designing the annual Chestnut Sale held each fall (the sale moved from Lakewood Township to the Ordean East Middle School three years ago to give them more space). Buyers would go wild at this sale which featured Beth’s artwork (painted windows and furniture pieces are her specialty), as well as handcrafted items made by her friends who would pick up furniture pieces and household items throughout the year and jazz them up for the sale. Beth enjoyed connecting treasure-hunters with treasures so much she opened her shop in Nov., 2014.
“I love being able to provide an inspiring marketplace for homespun goods, and a place where you find things you know have been waiting just for you. I focus mainly on furniture and items for the home that are repurposed, handcrafted or antique, or DIY projects with supplies or ideas. What really keeps me inspired is when a customer can’t stop smiling and or talking about their item or project when they’ve found their goods. Every day is fun for me at the store.” For more information on the store, see lesterrivertradingco.com.
Whimsy, a boutique carrying distinctive and on-trend children’s clothing (from baby things up to size 12), is just a few blocks away at 136 West First St. The adorable outfits and accessories found here are perfect for special occasions and picture-taking time, as well as active and outdoor day-today fun. The shop also features books, toys, décor, clocks, shoes (including Minnetonka moccasins) and accessories like bow ties, hats, angel wings, and princess crowns.
“We try to carry clothes and items made locally, as well as high-quality, small-scale national brands,” explains owner Alyssa Carlson. “I have a 9-year-old, and 12-year-old twins so I bounce ideas off them and ask them what they’d like to wear.”
Having a shop had been on her mind for 10 years, Alyssa says, and she started up in Nov., 2015 as part of the Duluth Greater Downtown Council’s Pop-Up Downtown Program.
“It’s been a great adventure,” she says. “We did so well that we decided to stay open and expand. It’s great to help keep our downtown vital.”
See facebook.com/WhimsyChildrensBoutique for more information on this shop.
A little farther east, at 405 East Superior St., Suite 110, is Liliana. This elegant little shop is a treasure trove for everyone—carrying timeless furnishings, housewares, jewelry, candles, soaps, and much more. The shop is divided up into little settings (including a boudoir area) that highlight its charming wares. Also featured is Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan®, and Chalk Paint® workshops. “The shop is named after my grandmother, Lilian, and my daughter, Anna,” says owner/ proprietor Heidi Weiberg. “I describe Liliana as a mix of vintage, new, up-cycled primitive, midcentury, and modern. We also provide interior design services, staging and custom furniture painting.”
Heidi’s first shop was called Broken Broom, which opened in 1998 in Markham, MN (inside the convenience store that Heidi owned). Liliana’s opened in Hermantown in 2013, and moved downtown in June of 2014. See facebook.com/LilianaofDuluth for more information and pictures.
Heidi created a Shop Small on the Big Lake brochure, featuring the names and addresses of small shops located in Duluth neighborhoods, Hermantown, and Cloquet. She welcomes other shops to join this group. “Small businesses help make neighborhoods thriving places to live, play, and work,” the brochure states.
It’s a 110 year-old historic home in the Lakeside business district, transformed into a unique one-of-a-kind shop. Serendipity, at 4407 E. Superior St. in Duluth, is celebrating its 10th anniversary of offering new and vintage furnishings, home décor, garden, and one-of-a-kind recycled pieces along with women’s clothing, baby, and seasonal items purchased from the major gift and apparel markets around the country. Check it out online at facebook.com/serendipityofduluth. Gayle Healy and Shirley Johnson make up the daughter/mother owner team. Gayle’s niece,
Angela Johnson, also helps keep the shop running.
“What makes our shop so unique and fun is the way we mix our old and new pieces together, and the fact that our displays and inventory are constantly changing,” Gayle says. “I’ve been in retail my whole life, and I love buying and merchandising and running this with my family.” Gayle credits her customers for the shop’s success and for keeping her in business for 10 years. “We have a huge loyal customer following, and so many of our customers have become our friends,” she explains.
Head up the hill to Hermantown for more small shopping fun. Gardening Junky, Wonderfully Made, and Golly G are three small shops located at the same stop at 4776 Hermantown Rd in Hermantown.
Laurie Guadino loves all things garden, so she opened her small shop Gardening Junky four years ago. She’s been at her Hermantown location since May, 2016. It’s an artistic venue and definitely a destination shopping spot where you’ll find plants, planters, floral arrangements, and household goods with a nature vibe. See her website at GardeningJunky.com “It’s a place where gardening and junk collide,” Laurie says. “The shop carries repurposed items inspired by nature. I work with local growers and farmers, and I try to support area businesses and artists.”
Laurie also holds “planting parties” for groups. “I was in the Master Gardener program for many years,” she says. “People would ask me to do this or that for them with plants. I would hold a plant sale once each month to support my plant habit. Then I decided to take the jump and open
the shop.” Laurie loves what she does. “Like any small business it’s a lot of work,” she says. “But I didn’t want to end up in the nursing home without at least trying my dream.”
Wonderfully Made is just next door. For several years, glass engraver Rebekah Rush sold her art at other area small shops. “People would ask, ‘Why don’t you open your own store?’ So I did,” Rebekah explains. She opened Wonderfully Made, which carries her glass pieces, plus the work of 20 local artists, all friends and/or members of her church.
You can also find her chalk painted furniture, watercolor paintings, jewelry made of sea glass and stones from Lake Superior, Minnesota-shaped pillows, landscape pictures made from felted wool, skirts made from mixed and matched t-shirts, handmade soy candles, and more. This shop is a place where fine arts and crafts come together for an eclectic and elegant mix of treasures. See facebook.com/WonderfullyMadeGoods for a glimpse of her wares.
Written by Alison Stucke for Duluth.com The Magazine.