Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography
With a population around 600, few would have expected the Minnesota town of McIntosh to be reinvented as a shopping destination. Cleveland Avenue may not have a stoplight, but it's definitely seeing an increase in traffic thanks to Andrea Stordahl's vision and her boutique, Minnesota Rust. After a year of revitalization, her eclectic storefront is now one of four women-owned businesses, including an inspired florist, an herbal apothecary and a full-service salon. Fall in love with the curated collection of Minnesota-made, vintage, and found pieces at Minnesota Rust, then follow the mesmerizing scents of hand-poured candles at the Howard Soap Co. next door. A short walk down the block, The Red Poppy, invites you inside their farm-inspired space, blooming with fresh-grown gifts. Once you've shopped 'til you dropped, finish your day with some post-retail pampering at The Beauty Room.
Located between Grand Forks and Bemidji, the small town of McIntosh has mainly been known for its barber, butcher and past bakery services. Today, it's seeing summer tourism, thanks to its new boutiques and close proximity to hot spots like Maple Lake and Cass Lake. While Minnesota Rust's owner, Andrea Stordahl, is originally from Fergus Falls, Minn., her husband, Bryce, grew up here and now runs his own business, Stordahl Construction. She started the boutique five years ago, but it was only a year-and-a-half ago that Stordahl decided to relocate Minnesota Rust to downtown McIntosh.
"The previous building we leased was not in good condition, and our business was growing, so we were kind of forced into buying a building sooner than we had imagined; and we really wanted to be closer to downtown," said Stordahl. The block they chose had been home to the city's cafe which now encompasses three of the new storefronts, along with the McIntosh Bakery, which has since been transformed into Minnesota Rust. The city had tried everything to find someone to take over the neighboring cafe space, even listing it for $1, which sparked Stordahl's interest. While most saw neglected buildings beyond repair, she saw a brighter opportunity worthy of the work.
After stripping down the town's old bakery and completing the revitalization of Minnesota Rust's historic structure, Stordahl was ready to recruit those with like-minded vision. "When we first got here, we were the only people on this side of the street, so we saw it as an opportunity to bring in some neighbors," said Stordahl. "Ashley Thomas was the first to open on the block with us, with her salon, The Beauty Room. Kathrine, the owner of Howard Soap Co., was just moving home and I thought her products were awesome and would be a perfect fit for this location." Stordahl then convinced her friend Meghan Palubicki, the florist and owner of nearby Fosston's The Red Poppy.
Combining efforts, Andrea and Bryce Stordahl worked with the boutique owners, friends, family, and the Amish to redesign nearly every square foot, made possible by separating the old cafe site into three storefronts. This month, we'll take you inside each new space and show you what it looks like when an entire community comes together to give this small town a vibrant new life.
[ Minnesota Rust ]
What was once home to the beloved McIntosh Bakery, is now Minnesota Rust's refined storefront with endless Instagram-worthy montages awaiting your arrival. From the exterior's bold black facade and cedar framed lounge to the interior's preserved brick, Minnesota Rust is an aesthetic celebration of past and present.
Amidst Stordahl's ever-evolving collection, you might just spot an original Mid-century modern chair from California, or a one-of-a-kind Turkish rug pillow. "I love the Mid-century chair we have now, and I'm really feeling the acrylic pieces like the little table and the art pieces we made which are displayed on the stairs. I like that mix of modern and old. Mainly, I like to have things that no one else has; really authentic pieces that I feel will function well in homes," said Stordahl.
Stordahl tends to find her most coveted pieces through word of mouth from locals, old farms, and sometimes from other dealers and treasured mentors, such as Donna Reed of Reed & Taylor Antiques. Although she doesn't consider herself a designer, per se, she will work with clients to consult on furnishings, decor, and placement, upon their request. She also spends part of her time buying and finding unique pieces for other dealers around the country.
"We don't do consignment, but we do work with jewelry designer, Bohemian Blu, and artists like j.glo studio's Jessica Aakre, the art teacher in Win-e-Mac. We also have beautiful abstract pieces in acrylic by Jason Steinbrenner of Fosston, and candles by Howard Soap Co.," said Stordahl. "Other than those, we don't carry anything regularly, it's all vintage or found pieces." In the store's renovation, Stordahl and her contractor husband tore out the original ceilings and uncovered the old bakery's brick wall, which is now the focal point of the store and home to j.glo studio's collection.
Beyond rare and authentic furnishings, Stordahl carries the unexpected with artful takes on locally found ram horns, cow rib bones, driftwood and potted branches.
The only consistency in Stordahl's store is that you'll always discover a wide array of found, rare, and vintage items - each and every week. If you follow the store on social media and see something you love, our advice is to snag it swiftly; Stordahl has an expert eye for spotting rare gems that tend to find new homes quickly.
[ Howard Soap Co. ]
Kathrine Howard may be a busy mom of five kids, but she's also a successful entrepreneur as the founder and creator at Howard Soap Co., an intoxicating apothecary of carefully curated oils, soaps, skincare, and hand-poured soy candles. Her handcrafted lines have a healthy following and have been popular in smaller stores throughout the Midwest and in her online store since 2008. When she decided to make the move back to her hometown of McIntosh, an open storefront was calling her name.
Howard's career had a gradual start, inspired by the higher quality of the handmade soap she had once discovered at a craft show. "It was just so much different and better than anything I had used," said Howard. "I was a stay-at-home mom at the time and I started researching and making my own cold-processed soap; that was over ten years ago. I had gone to cosmetology school, and I had a facial background, so instead of spending money on the things I wanted, I made my own."
When Howard started giving her soaps away as gifts, those same people began placing orders. "It wasn't really ever in my plan to start a business, but about five years ago, Herberger's started a local makers section and I began selling products to them. After that, I started an Etsy store and was later asked to sell wholesale to Herberger's," said Howard. "That was my first crash course in business and I learned a lot from it."
Soaps & Salts
Inside her McIntosh apothecary, Howard masters her own 100 plus recipes with warm fusions of locally-derived honey, spices, unfiltered beeswax and herbs - expertly paired with exotic citrus, earthy woods, musk, and floral elements. Her soaps are handmade with time-perfected recipes infusing highly moisturizing oils, botanicals and silk amino acids. Here, you'll find collections like Blueberry Thyme, Pink Clay, Salt, Cocoa Butter & Cashmere, Lavender, Coconut Milk, Rose Gold, Moonstone and countless others. Her bath collection includes blends like Green Tea & Bee Pollen milk bath, Rose Patchouli bath oil and Lavender Pink Himalayan bath salts.
Handpoured Soy Candles
After spending years perfecting her skincare craft, six years ago she took another leap, debuting a candle collection that found immediate success. The hand-poured, small-batch process is long and tedious, but something she prefers to manage by herself, occasionally recruiting assistance from her eldest daughter.
Howard's preference is 100 percent soy candles using only the finest oils to create the cleanest burn. Her collections pique the senses with just the right amount of warmth, nostalgia, and seasonal inspiration within specially curated lines. Visit her store in person or online to find intriguing fusions like Nutmeg & Spice, Leather & Brandy, Magnolia & Peony, Watermint & Wild Orange, Rhubarb & Fig, Birch & Black, Lemon & Mint Leaf, and Sea Salt & Orchid, to name a few. Local favorites include Bonfire Nights and Lavender Vetiver.
Her best-selling lotion, Cocoa Butter Cashmere has also made its way to the candle collection, bringing a romantic, sultry blend of tonka bean, cocoa, creamy coconut, white sandalwood, amber and musk.
Find her collections online or at Grain Designs in Fargo, The Red Poppy in McIntosh and Fosston, Minnesota Rust in McIntosh, Salt Salon & Spa in Minneapolis, and countless other boutiques around Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.
[ The Red Poppy ]
Meghan Palubicki, a self-described green thumb and junker, has known Stordahl for many years through her floral, greenhouses and gift shops. In fact, they were both frequent customers of each other's businesses. "When Andrea brought the idea to me, I originally turned it down, but a couple of months later I changed my mind," laughed Palubicki. Inside, Palubicki had a few requests for Stordahl Construction. The interior walls were recreated in rustic pine, and the building's second level was torn out, creating stunning high ceilings flanked in corrugated farm metal and exposed wood beams.
"It's really turned into a fun store and an outlet for our Minnesota artists," said Palubicki. "In Fosston, I was kind of on my own for ten years and we're open 365 days a year. We have the two greenhouses which are very seasonal, so we also do fresh floral, plants, and gifts - but we got rid of our junk shop when we moved the business into the new grocery store in Fosston." In all, Palubicki has four locations, a greenhouse and store in Fosston, a greenhouse in Lake Park, and now the shop in McIntosh.
With the different vibe of McIntosh, Palubicki was eager to bring back The Red Poppy's junk shop, infused with her signature selections of art, vintage finds, clothing, handmade decor and several lines of North Dakota and Minnesota-made giftware.
Palubicki is proud to carry handpicked goods from Maine, Dixie's Boutique, Drift North, Minnesota Made, August Sparrow, 618 Love, Minnesota Awesome, Never Winter, Pick & Shovel Wear, The ‘Sota Shop, RainDrop Paperie, Howard Soap Co., Beckamade, Lakeside Clothing Co., Mann Made Signs, Brandt’s Board Art, Northern Drift, Puzzletwist, Laura’s Lovely, Finch at Home, The Vintage Studio MN, Crooked Halo and Minne Mama.
"Opening on this block, I've gained something I never had before; a sisterhood within the business," said Palubicki. "We work together in our planning, each of us contributing different elements and expertise for different events. We have very different personalities, but we all work so hard; it's been a beautiful relationship. I don't have to do this myself, and that is one of the things I appreciate the most."
"Opening on this block, I've gained something I never had before; a sisterhood within the business."
[ The Beauty Room ]
At the end of the revitalized block, you'll find The Beauty Room, owned by Ashley Thomas. After eight years in the industry, Thomas, a mother of two, started her own full-service salon, moving into the town's new location nearly a year ago. She's originally from the area, growing up in Erskine, Minn.
She specializes in men's and women’s haircuts, color, face waxing, eyebrow tinting, perms, tape-in extensions, Malibu treatments, gloss treatments, deep conditioning treatments, punky colors, updos and makeup services.
"I love being on the corner of this block, especially on Thursdays and Fridays when the stores have their events going on," said Thomas. "I like being in a small town and knowing everybody, but it's really fun to see all the visitors to the stores and getting to meet new people here for the first time; some people will even stop in and visit as they're walking by."
On the Horizon!
While the city of McIntosh doesn't currently have any dining options, Stordahl is determined to upgrade its offerings. "We have been having food trucks come to town during our events, but we're working on plans to open a cafe very soon; it will be located between The Beauty Room and The Red Poppy, behind the pink door," said Stordahl.
For more information, contact:
Howard Soap Co.
The Red Poppy
The Beauty Room
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