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so now to have my studio located right next to where my brides and grooms are touring

Time:2018-09-08 19:02Shoes websites Click:

village Boost Helps businesses Diversity

Original developer Andy Anderson—now president and CEO of Nor-Son Custom Builders—had big plans when the facility opened 13 years ago.

"Back in '05, the economy was going along very well," he said. "I felt the demand along with the growth allowed for a unique design that wasn't in the area quite yet. ... I wanted to create kind of a village-type look."

With three phases planned, Anderson began to see his vision come together when the first building complex came to fruition in October 2005. The four tenants were Famous Dave's, Among the Pines, Tumbleroos and the Gumdrop Tree, according to a Brainerd Dispatch article published at the time.

Phase Two came in 2007, but things didn't go quite as planned after that.

"The first building was built, the second building was built, and then the growth really stopped when the economy turned," Anderson said. "That's why the third building hasn't been built yet."

Though he was pleased with the work he accomplished in the years he had it, Anderson bid farewell to the Baxter Village in 2011.

"If the opportunity hadn't come I might have done things differently, but the opportunity came to part ways with it, and away it went," he said. "That's just part of business."

As foreclosure forced the door shut on Anderson's Village, restaurateurs Rich Proctor and Steve Letnes opened a new one—literally.

Famous Dave's closed by the time Proctor and Letnes came in 2013, so they saw an opportunity.

"It just made financial sense," Proctor said. "Our main goal was to get a restaurant in here, and then both retail centers were for sale, so we just figured for what we pay in rent we could probably just pick it up."

So the duo bought the village and opened The Boulder Tap House where Famous Dave's once stood.

Today, eight businesses call the Baxter Village home. From north to south, they are: The Boulder Tap House, Among the Pines, Bloom Designs, Pearle Vision, Ardor Boutique, Big Stone Therapies, CrossFit Grow and Center for Pain Management.

Among the Pines

Of the original Baxter Village tenants, only one remains—Among the Pines.

A business owner since 1998, Sue Conway relocated her gift shop and knitting studio from Pequot Lakes to the brand-new Baxter Village in 2005 and has been there ever since.

"I love it. I think I should be the poster child (for the Village)," Conway said. "If they have people that want to come and rent here, they should come and talk to me because I have been here since '05; I have been making it work."

Because of customer demographics and ongoing talk of the Highway 371 bypass in Pequot Lakes, Conway decided Baxter would be a better location for her business, which began as a home decor and gift store with a knitting studio in the back. But a few years after moving to Baxter, Conway decided the community didn't really need another gift shop.

"'What else interests me?'" Conway said she asked herself at the time. "And clothing interested me."

The store then transformed into half clothing and half knitting before Conway decided to do away with the knitting studio altogether.

Today, Among the Pines is a women's clothing boutique also specializing in local handmade jewelry.

"Generally the focus for me is to find vendors that won't be selling anywhere else, not only in Brainerd/Baxter, but actually up to Nisswa and Pequot," Conway said. "That's not always easy, but I do have a lot of really exclusive, very loyal vendors that when you walk in here it's not going to be the same everywhere."

That exclusivity is what sets Among the Pines apart from big box stores.

"People who want to shop at a boutique are going to follow that thought process where they're not looking to be repeats," Conway said. "Target's great for Target things, but they really want to identify themselves."

Conway and her team of personal stylists help Among the Pines customers find the right clothes and accessories for their identity through honesty—sometimes brutal honesty.

"They (customers) don't think you're going to be honest, and we're like, 'No, because you're going to walk out there and be our billboard,'" Conway said. "We're going to really help people walk out of here feeling amazing."

Personal stylist Jessica Richau helps with that goal.

"I'd say the best part about the job is helping that person that comes in and they have a unique need, like they need a dress for a wedding, or they just need some good wardrobe staples," Richau said. "And I think when they walk out of here with something that makes them really feel incredible, that's the best part about the job."

Richau, a longtime Among the Pines customer, likened her job to being backstage at a concert because she gets to see the inner workings of one of her favorite businesses. The personal stylist brings her knowledge of children's clothing to the store, which Conway said just expanded to include a little girl's section.

Another new endeavor for Among the Pines is the potential for online shopping.

"We're chatting about a website," Conway said. "Probably not everything in the store, but ... things that will feed from our Facebook page and our Instagram page for those insomniacs that like our store."

The online presence would add to the success Conway has enjoyed since moving her store to the Baxter Village.

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