Midwest Nest Magazine

Midwest Nest Magazine

Culture, Entertaining, and Home Design

Category: Business

Dakota Vines Vineyard & Winery

Words by Tracy Nicholson / Photography by M.Schleif Photography With life-long careers devoted to education, Deb and Bob Grosz have been planting the seed to pursue a passion outside of…

Words by Tracy Nicholson / Photography by M.Schleif Photography

With life-long careers devoted to education, Deb and Bob Grosz have been planting the seed to pursue a passion outside of the classroom. After 14 years of studying the art of winemaking, their dream would finally become reality in a soybean field near Colfax, North Dakota. On June 15, the Groszes gathered their 5,780 bottles of wine and opened the doors to Dakota Vines Vineyard and Winery. With Crooked Lane Farm neighboring their vineyard from across the river, they may have just created Fargo-Moorhead’s newest day-trip destination.

In their nearly 33 years of marriage, Bob and Deb Grosz had spent much of their lives consumed with the activities of three children and busy careers. Now, empty-nesters, they’ve refocused their spare time and energy into a longtime passion for winemaking. “We are thrilled that our kids and family have been so supportive,” said Deb Grosz. “Our son in L.A. and youngest son from Minneapolis came down for the opening while our oldest daughter who lives in Fargo has been out here helping us. A big reason why we’re doing this is that they were so active and we were so busy when they were younger – it all just comes to a halt when the kids are moved out, it’s a huge change.”

“Some people buy a sports car and we just took a hobby and turned it into a business,” laughed Bob Grosz.

Turn at the Wine Barrel
Just off of I-29 near rural Colfax, you can’t miss Dakota Vine’s cedar wine barrel sign. Built by Bob Grosz and his friend, Todd Johnson, the two created an inviting backdrop for the custom metal logo by Red River Metal Art.

On the Grow
Starting with an at-home winemaking kit, Bob Grosz became enthralled with all aspects of the science and process behind the wine. “We had some grapes that were frozen, some from Washington and some from California and we continued to work with that,” said Bob Grosz. “Then, we met Rodney Hogen at Red Trail Vineyard in Buffalo and I started working with him. The only thing I asked was that I get to take some of the grapes with me after I’d help him prune or harvest. About three years ago, we decided this was something we wanted to pursue, so I’ve been working on earning a degree in Enology, or winemaking. It’s a two-year associates degree through the VESTA program (vesta-usa.org) with classes offered through various universities and all of them require some type of a practicum. I’ve been in wineries across Minnesota and Wisconsin, along with lab work in Cleveland. We decided that if this is what we wanted to do, we had better be good at it before we take that next step.”

True North Dakota Wines
Since their vines are newly planted and won’t produce for three years, the couple has been sourcing their grapes from other vineyards and the University of Minnesota. “We will only offer wines from grapes that can be grown right here in North Dakota,” said Deb Grosz. “You won’t find a Cabernet, Merlot or Chardonnay here because those grapes don’t grow in this climate. So, even though we could have used any grape we wanted this time, we still wanted our wines to reflect what can actually be produced in North Dakota.”

“For our licensing, by year five we have to be using 50% North Dakota product, but our goal is to get there much faster. Our hope is that more local vineyards will open and start growing so that we can buy more local product,” said Bob Grosz.

Tasting Room
To kick off their opening summer, Dakota Vines is offering two spectacular reds, two whites and three fruit wines in apple, pear and plum varietals. For those who prefer their hops over grapes, the tasting room will also feature locally-made craft beers from Fargo Brewing Company and other local breweries.

In the tasting room, the Groszes offer guests small glimpses of their personal life, infusing the space with rustic and schoolhouse elements in cozy, country surroundings. “With both of us being educators, we thought school chairs were appropriate,” said Deb Grosz. “We found the barn door and school chairs at Habitat Restore. We just wanted to pull it all together and make it reflect our life.”

Bob Grosz designed and drew-up the entire winery, working closely with Wahpeton, N.D., contractor, Matt Kinneberg. Kinneberg was able to repurpose the Grosz’s old fence boards to create the focal point above the fireplace and the beams in the ceiling.

“It’s so much fun to be at this point now – we had this in our imagination and now to see it is amazing,” said Deb Grosz. “My step-dad, Duane Radeck, actually built the bar and wine storage for us. We wanted the traditional wine x’s. He and my mom, Carolyn, have been very helpful and they didn’t miss a single work session for bottling.”

ND Wine Time!
Wine tasting options consist of five samples for $5.00, by the glass or by the bottle. Prices range from $17.99 to $18.99 per bottle. With names reflective of their North Dakota heritage, guests will find wines like Roughrider, Prairie Sky, Mighty Bison, Lake Agassiz, County Road and Peace Garden.

Labeled on the barn door are descriptions of each wine and the grape variety or fruit, such as Marquette, Frontenac, La Crescent and Brianna. These grapes have been harvested from the University of Minnesota’s program as well as independent breeders.

Tasty Pairings
This summer, Dakota Vines will be offering small plates with crackers and cheeses for anyone touring or tasting. “We do have a very small commercial kitchen in the back, so as we expand and go into year two, we have a few ideas to create special dinner nights, possibly once a week on Saturday nights,” said Deb Grosz.

The Wine Wall
Near the fireplace, the Groszes have created their own “Wine Wall”, featuring and showing support for other local wineries and cider houses who have offered valuable advice throughout their winemaking journey. “It was amazing to me when we let the other wineries know that we wanted to do this, they were all in,” said Deb Grosz. “They were so excited and said, please do it. It hasn’t been a competitive scenario, really just a collaboration. I know there are people in this community who still don’t know there are any wineries in North Dakota. Hopefully, they see this wall and want to take a road trip.”

“We visited quite a few local wineries as well as an array of wineries in Napa, but locally, our friends at 4e and Red Trail Vineyards have been so supportive and helpful,” said Deb Grosz. “They’ve also given their time. We’ve had so many people out here helping us bottle; crews of seven to eight people for six days in a row. All we had to do was ask, and keep feeding them, and they just kept coming to help.”

“It’s like our friends at 4e Winery in Mapleton said, ‘When you have a winery, you don’t need a gym membership,'” laughed Bob Grosz.

“Someone actually said to us, ‘Not only do we want you to do this, but we want you to do it well,'” said Deb Grosz. “That really spoke to me. He explained that if our wine is the only North Dakota wine that someone has tried, it has to be good. We don’t want anyone thinking that North Dakota can’t produce good wine – so, it’s really important that all of our local wineries do well.”

The Gallery
Just beyond the tasting room, the space overlooking the river is penned “The Gallery”. The rentable room is designed to accommodate up to 40 people for nearly any type of gathering.

The Gallery’s crisp, white walls feature an array of patchwork quilt art by local artists and watercolor art by Barbara Benda Nagle and Bev Benda. “Years ago, Barbara was our daughter’s fifth-grade teacher, so we asked her if she would like to be our first art show,” said Deb Grosz. Throughout the summer, the couple plan to rotate in new artists’ work so guests will have a unique experience with each visit.

Outside of the gallery, the Groszes have designed a small patio where guests can enjoy a dose of country life, river views and wildflowers. In future plans, the Groszes are working to design a small gazebo or pavilion-like structure closer to the river, where guests can enjoy live music or relax with a glass of wine.

Across the River and Through the Woods…
Just across the river, Mary Jo Schmid and Brent Larson, owners of Crooked Lane Farm, have a beautiful event and wedding venue with a 1940s barn. “Mary Jo and I were in grad school together at UND and our kids were in theatre activities together, so we’ve known them for a long time and asked them if they’d ever want to part with some land. They have been super helpful and really saw this as a good companion business for their own,” said Deb Grosz. “We feel the same way about them; we can work with brides and grooms for their wine and we’ll be setting up a table to sell wine at their concerts that they host every other Thursday, all summer. This year, our time and effort will be focused on the tasting room and the concerts at Crooked Lane Farm.”

Open for Tastings & Tours!
Dakota Vines is now open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Labor Day weekend. Guests can tour the tasting room, gallery and production room with Letina tanks.

Once the snow flies, make sure to check their Facebook page and website for updates on special dates for holiday shopping events and exclusive dining nights. “For the holidays, we have discussed partnering with Crooked Lane Farm to do a sleigh ride which would bring guests back to our tasting room for a mulled wine and provide a place to warm up and enjoy the season,” said Deb Grosz. “With river right outside our door, it’s really beautiful here in the winter.” Next summer, you can expect Dakota Vines to open their tasting room as early as Memorial weekend.

Get to Know: Bob Grosz – Vineyard and Winery Manager, Winemaker
Bob Grosz has over 25 years of experience in public school education as a teacher, principal and associate superintendent. He has been the Associate Superintendent for the Fargo Public Schools for the past 10 years and has been an adjunct professor at North Dakota State University for the past five years, teaching classes to master’s level students. Bob Grosz has a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of North Dakota and is currently working on a degree in Enology (winemaking).

Get to Know: Deb Grosz – Sales and Tasting Room Manager
Deb Grosz began her career in 1989 as a 4th-grade teacher and has a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of North Dakota. She spent ten years in various elementary and middle school classrooms prior to her current role at Concordia College as the Director of Field Experiences where she teaches children’s literature and various seminars to pre-service teachers.

Hit the road for a North Dakota Tasting Tour!

4e Winery
3766 156th Avenue S.E., Mapleton, N.D.
Red Trail Vineyard
3510 142nd Avenue S.E., Buffalo, N.D.
redtrailvineyards.comMaple River Winery (Open year-round)
628 Front Street, Casselton, N.D.
mapleriverwinery.comRookery Rock Winery (New!)
3660 147th Avenue S.E., Wheatland, N.D.

Point of View Winery
8413 19th Avenue N.W., Burlington, N.D.

Wild Grape Winery and Kesselring Vineyards (Vineyard tours by appointment)
5720 160th Avenue S.E., Kindred, N.D.
kesselringvineyard.wordpress.comPrairie Rose Meadery
3101 39th Street S., Fargo, N.D.
prairierosemeadery.comDakota Sun Gardens Winery
955 73rd Avenue N.E., Carrington, N.D.

Bear Creek Winery
8800 South 25th Street, Fargo, N.D.

Prairiewood Winery
12443 68th Street S.E., Lisbon, N.D.

Cottonwood Cider House
14481 25th Street S.E., Ayr, N.D.

Wild Terra Cider & Brewing
6 – 12th Street North, Fargo, N.D.


For more information, contact:
Dakota Vines Vineyard and Winery
17355 County Road 4, Colfax, N.D. (I-29 toward Abercrombie – exit 37)
(Open for tastings and tours through mid-September)
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Optical [Design] Illusions – Inside the New Aspire Optical Co. of Fargo

Words by Tracy Nicholson / Photography by Dan Francis Photography When we heard Trever Hill was collaborating with Grain Designs on the design of the new Aspire Optical Co., we…

Words by Tracy Nicholson / Photography by Dan Francis Photography

When we heard Trever Hill was collaborating with Grain Designs on the design of the new Aspire Optical Co., we couldn’t wait to contact owners, Ashley and Gillian Freeborn. It didn’t take long to see that guests at their stunning eyewear boutique were destined to get the VIP treatment, complete with an integrated guest experience right at their fingertips. With over 30 eyewear lines and 2,000 frames and sunglasses ranging from high-end designer to affordable and stylish, their eyewear begged for the perfect backdrop and distinguished displays. Take a tour with Midwest Nest as we check out the custom displays with a few unexpected design twists that will make you want to kick back and bury your toes in the sand.

Visualizing a Dream

The Freeborns moved from Canada to Fargo five-years-ago, relocating for Gillian’s residency at the VA Hospital where she now works as a Psychologist. With a new business and baby number three on the way in early August, the Freeborns have a life they are passionate about.

“I have worked in the optical field in sales and marketing for the past 13 years in Canada, and this has always been a dream of ours,” said Ashley Freeborn. “It was my job to work closely with accounts on the brands, inventory and marketing, which is now a culmination carrying over to my own optical boutique. I took note of all of the good things my accounts were doing and ideas that I had spent years counseling them to pursue. It’s really exciting to be able to bring that experience forward and finally open the doors.”

Optical Design Illusions

To come up with their design inspiration, the Freeborns spent late nights and many hours scouring Pinterest. “We brought everything together for the boutique’s design and decided to work with Trever Hill Design who was fabulous at making our vision come to life,” said Gillian Freeborn. “Trever chose all of the furniture, countertops, lighting, wall coverings and accessories. We love the furnishings that he chose, they’re beautiful, but also extremely comfortable and well-made. You can really see the detail in the stitching. Our contractor was Rogness Contracting and they were phenomenal to work with too; I would recommend them to anyone.”

“I knew from talking to Ashley and Gillian that I needed to add in multiple textures and keep the overall space cohesive, yet still distinguish the stations and unique spaces,” said Hill. “I also worked closely with Grain Designs to create the concepts for the freestanding and wall displays where I needed to figure out function and storage, texture and wood finishes. It was such a pleasure working with Aspire and Grain Designs on this project. I love anytime a project starts from a dirt floor to the last accessory being placed,” said Hill.

Ray-Ban Red? 

“I actually felt bad for Trever – initially, this space was going to be a lot different. Think Ray-ban red in one area and a man cave in another area. There was going to be so many competing concepts and he somehow, very tactfully, toned it down and changed my mind,” laughed Ashley Freeborn. “He took all of those ideas and managed to distill them into what you see now. Our partnership with Grain Designs was formed through Trever and the idea of that rustic and refurbished wood was always something that I feel like we wanted, but he really facilitated that for us.”

Display Design  

Within the boutique, each display needed to be custom-designed to suit the space and provide optimum storage and shelving. For a clean look with a reclaimed appeal, Hill and Grain Designs chose a white pine with a distressed finish, sourced from a 1880s church. Metal bases, trays and shelves were powder-coated along with industrial plumber’s pipe to give the displays sleek function with rustic style. Their team also custom built the free-standing displays and two digital monitor displays with touchscreen technology.

At the LED-lit counter, Hill chose a textured, stone-look wall covering as the backdrop for Aspire’s laser-cut, metal sign by Grain Designs.

On the back wall, Grain Designs built a slat wall featuring reclaimed wood with interchangeable metal shelving. “We wanted a wall that you could manipulate and change the display so that it’s a different feel for the customer every time they come in,” said Ashley Freeborn. “It’s kind of a take on an old slat-wall concept using reclaimed wood and powder coated metal shelving. It was an idea that I had, but really it was Grain Designs that developed the concept into what it is.”

The Interactive Guest Experience

With so much in-depth information behind their brands and lenses, Ashley Freeborn designed this touchscreen display concept to create an interactive guest experience right at your fingertips. “We realized that the younger generation focuses a lot on social and corporate responsibility – they want transparency,” said Ashley Freeborn. “With brands like Toms, you can see their collection, the lens features and also watch a really dynamic video on their charitable work across the globe. This really helps us to communicate what is generally a lot of information about each brand.”

Ashley Freeborn found the 1900s barber chair, originally from Toronto, Ontario, in an old optometry practice in Winnipeg. “We loved the chair, so we took it to Audubon Upholstery to refurbish the piece – we think it weighs around 350 pounds,” said Ashley Freeborn. “It’s a really fun chair to sit in and everyone who comes in comments on it.”

Paddleboard Paradise 

Distinguishing the sunglass displays are three paddleboards affixed on the wall with integrated shelving by Grain Designs. The boards were a fun idea that Ashley Freeborn had envisioned from the start, but worked with Hill to perfect.

“Ashley had originally wanted multiple zones for clients, but I was a little concerned about how busy it may be if all of those zones had a different design and varying bold colors. I thought he was on the right track though, so we did incorporate many of his ideas, but we made the colors more cohesive to unify the space,” explained Hill. “So, instead of going with the red paddleboards like he had intended, we changed the boards to white which helped unify the design. This also created a crisp, clean slate for the sunglass display.”

“You’ll see even with the wallcovering and leather on the furniture, we chose similar materials throughout the space to pull those areas together,” said Hill. “The wall covering is from the Phillip Jeffries collection at McNeal & Friends, while Weyer-For-Hire did the installation.”

At the Blink of an Eye

A competitive advantage over online shops, Aspire Optical Co. has over 2,000 frames, cuts their own lenses and is able to process common prescriptions often within the same hour or quicker. Their team of five, including two opticians, are all trained to find the best frame and fit, usually opting to have two team members assist every guest. This fall, they hope to bring an optometrist on-site to complete their team.

Seeing in Style

Aspire Optical Co. truly has something for everyone, but being located in a neighborhood that lends itself to luxury, the Freeborns have taken note and pride themselves on the array of lines from affordable and funky to high-end designer and exclusive frames.

“Right now, I believe we carry more designer lines than any other area boutique,” said Ashley Freeborn. “We also have our own Aspire Collection which starts at $189 with a single vision lens and anti-reflective coat, which is really competitive to most online offers. The idea was to allow people to stay on budget yet still purchase multiple pairs. We need eyewear for so many different tasks now, compared to what it used to be. Here, you can find a great designer pair of glasses and then also find something that would be more of a daily lifestyle choice.”

Aspire Optical’s Brands:

Coach, Swarovski, Vaurnet, Maui Jim, Ray-Ban, Tiffany & Co., Kate Spade New York, Oakley, Jimmy Choo, Rag & Bone, Polo, Guess, Alexander McQueen, Vanni, Prada, Toms, Gucci, Fendi, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Kliik Denmark, Tom Ford, Michael Kors, Monoqool, Evatik, Derapage, Etnia Barcelona, Fysh and many more.

Find the Finishes:

Contractor – Rogness Contracting

Interior Design- Trever Hill Design

Shelving, display and wood fabrication – Grain Designs

Furniture – McNeal & Friends

Accessories – SCHEELS Home & Hardware

Laser-cut logo sign – Grain Designs

Herringbone wall tile – sourced from Floor to Ceiling Carpet One

Countertops – Northern Stone

Cabinetry – Braaten Cabinets

Lighting – Noir, Perigold

Wall coverings – Phillip Jeffries, McNeal & Friends

Wall covering install – Weyer-For-Hire

For more information, contact:
Aspire Optical Co. Fargo
3265 45th Street South, Suite 104, Fargo
Follow @aspireopticalco on Instagram and Facebook
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Higher Education: Interior Design & Retail Merchandising

Words by Tracy Nicholson / Photography by Dan Francis Photography / Digital files provided by Sydney Fritz and NDSU Interior Design Program One of the first things I learned while…

Words by Tracy Nicholson / Photography by Dan Francis Photography / Digital files provided by Sydney Fritz and NDSU Interior Design Program

One of the first things I learned while writing for this industry was the distinction between interior design and interior decorating. Last fall, I was introduced to an NDSU student by the name of Sydney Fritz. Although many may consider her an interior design student, I soon found out that her major was one that I was not familiar with; Retail Merchandising. It was perfect timing because Fritz had just completed a lengthy project for one of her required interior design classes. So, we headed back to school to find out how her area of expertise translated to the design world.

Meet the Student
Sydney Fritz is a retail merchandising student with an emphasis on interiors. She will graduate in the spring of 2019 with a degree in Apparel, Retail Merchandising and Design, with a minor in Business at NDSU. Her major carries a heavier emphasis on the aesthetic side of interior design. Although the assigned project required space planning and construction documents, her retail merchandising emphasis does not rely on advanced qualifications to draw up construction documents like interior design majors. Regardless, this class will help her to understand this important aspect. Her degree is equally divided between interior design classes and business classes with over half the remaining classes taken in retail merchandising. With her retail merchandising major, Fritz is on her way to mastering the art of buying and merchandise planning, global retailing, promotion, global trade, consumer behavior, trend forecasting and the analysis of textile products.

The Project:
The Martin Residence
Assigned by NDSU Professor Ann Marie Ragan, this fictional project is a residential design assignment based on the needs of a retired couple, Clark and Ava Martin. The students were told that they had purchased a two-bedroom condominium in the 300 Building located in Downtown Fargo.

Project Requirements
The Martins requested the design of their home to have a more “urban” feel with Post War/Mid-century Modern influences incorporated throughout the home. Students selected a Post War/Mid-century Modern designer chair to incorporate into their final design solution.

Aging in place and universal design solutions had to be incorporated via finishes, furnishings, layout of the furniture, types and location of cabinetry and plumbing fixtures. As part of the assignment, students were told that sustainable design was to be an important component of the project. This would impact the material selection and use throughout the home. Students were asked to select and incorporated three works of art from at least one local or regional artist into the design.

According to Professor Ragan, students were also responsible for designing a custom light fixture for the Martins. “They began by sketching clothing from the same time as the Post War/Mid-century interior design style. These were provided by the Emily Reynolds Historic Costume Collection located at NDSU,” said Professor Ragan. “Students were responsible for selecting the furniture, finishes, materials, artwork, lighting, furnishings and window treatments for the project.”

In-Class Activity: Designing a Custom Light Fixture

Getting Started
“Getting this interior design assignment was really overwhelming at first; especially trying to figure out where to begin,” said Fritz. “The description laying out the project was pages and pages of details. We started with an empty shell, laying out where we thought bedrooms should go. Then we had to get more technical with our math, figuring out the square footage that we had to work with.”

Since Fritz has chosen retail merchandising as her major, it’s important to note that her major does not typically require this type of detailed space planning. Out of the 19 students in this studio course, only one other person shared her emphasis in retail merchandising. Regardless, the class itself and knowledge of the concept is required for her degree.

Challenges & Limitations
Before Fritz and her classmates could get started, they had to understand the requirements and limitations. “There’s an atrium in this project, so we had to make sure all of the plumbing was on a certain wall. The space planning was the most challenging side of this project,” said Fritz. “What I learned was to keep it simple. I initially wanted to do a lot of angles and curves, but I realized that these would have also made it difficult to place the bed, nightstands and lighting. Even though I wanted to be different, I learned to keep it simple and focus on creating an easy flow, not putting too many obstructions to have to walk around. Each floor plan takes many hours to complete with several hours to copy the rough draft onto the vellum. It’s kind of like a puzzle figuring out how each space should function with the given square footage.”

“I thought picking out the furniture wouldn’t be that challenging, but it was,” said Fritz. “We were limited to furniture that fit the room but allowed for space to move around it. We also kept in mind that the older tenants would require furniture that was firmer and it had to be in the required Mid-century Modern style. If the furniture was overly cushioned it would be hard to transition from a sitting position. Along with space planning, we each had to design our own custom island, custom light piece and custom drapery.”

Professional Presentation
For Fritz’s classmates, this interior design project required designing floor plans, elevations, custom cabinetry, light fixtures and room layout – along with design details like accent pillows, throws, wall coverings, lighting, drapery and flooring. According to Professor Ragan, students in retail merchandising complete all the same work for the project except for the presentation drawings used on the final presentation boards. “Retail merchandising students are not required to complete rendered perspective drawings since they are not required to take the course where the students learn how to do these drawings,” explained Professor Ragan.

Mid-century Modern Influence
“I wanted more of a classic and timeless Mid-century Modern design, instead of the bright geometric design most people immediately think of,” said Fritz. “The version I chose is more of an upscale take on Mid-century Modern versus the more casual bold colors. I did a lot of neutrals, then I would be able to add in the colors through my custom drapes and artwork. I chose a local artist, Jessica Wachter to represent the art pieces for the entire design. I chose brushed gold finishes and lighter wood flooring, knowing that the other wood finishes would be darker. We each picked an heirloom piece and I chose a wire chair piece which will be covered in the muted red fabric to coordinate with the blinds.”

Design by Lifestyle
Keeping in mind the profile of the tenants who were nearing retirement age, Fritz and her class were asked to create a space that would be accessible with a designated guest space for the tenant’s visiting parents. This apartment would be their primary home and last residence before moving into an assisted living facility. With this lifestyle in mind, Fritz designed her extra-large, walk-in, tile shower with a floor that would be level with the bathroom’s tile floor to avoid complications. She also kept this in mind when choosing the bed heights and space on each side of the bed.

Fritz and her classmates were asked to create bubble diagrams, adjacency matrices, and circulation diagrams. The primary purpose of bubble diagrams and adjacency matrices is to analyze the room/space adjacencies, while circulation diagrams consider the flow of the rooms/space.

For the research portion of the programming binder, each student compiled articles on Mid-century Modern design and universal design. Students completed annotated bibliographies about the articles and reaction papers on different businesses that were visited during the studio course.

Coordinating Color
“A lot of students chose different eras of Mid-century Modern, many of them focusing on the version with geometric patterns and bright colors like oranges and lime greens,” said Fritz. “I chose an era that I felt was more suited for this older tenant. I used a lot of sophisticated navy blues, darker olive greens with just a little bit of muted red and lighter blues. I added a lot of texture with my throw blankets and pops of more vibrant color with Jessica Wachter’s art pieces. I definitely used more accent or interchangeable pieces for the bold colors.”

Inspirational Mentors
When she’s not in school, Fritz works for a Fargo-based interior decor, furnishing store, and design firm, McNeal & Friends. This gave her the added benefit of accessing the store’s vast inventory of fabric and wall coverings. She also had access to their team of designers including, Trever Hill who suggested the concept of having the carpet inset into the living room floor, creating a level transition. “This concept worked to help make the living room two separate spaces even though it’s actually one large room,” said Fritz. “I also consulted with another designer at McNeal & Friends, Jayne Wilson about my drapery choice. Picking out the materials was definitely the most fun for me.”

Styling Spaces
For much of the furniture, lighting and accessories, Fritz opted for pieces by Restoration Hardware with additional pieces from Room & Board and Pottery Barn. “Since a lot of my furniture was in neutral tones, I had to be careful not to add too much color, but just enough to give it character,” said Fritz. “I found the wall coverings at McNeal & Friends and chose two different grasscloth textures by Phillip Jeffries. The grey-toned one is for the master bedroom and the lighter covering is for the guest bedroom. I thought the texture really gave it class and more of an upscale look. I also chose brushed gold hardware for a really authentic, Mid-century Modern finish.”

Objectives of the Project
“By showing this project, I want people to know how technical this field is, it’s not just picking out a cute bed frame or fun pillows,” said Fritz. “In our process, we need to understand how that furniture or kitchen island is going to fit and function for the space. It’s researching fabrics and coordinating textures as well as deciding the right amount of space between furniture for proper flow and function, all based on the tenant’s needs and lifestyle.”

“Some of the questions we ask ourselves are; can a wheelchair fit in between the furniture pieces and does the kitchen island allow for seating as well as ample walking space on each side? We also have to be aware of where all of our drawers in the kitchen are being placed. Should they be pull-out drawers or doors and does the client prefer soft-close options? ”

For every square inch of a home, there are endless options to choose from, so for this project, it’s Fritz’s job to really think about the client’s needs and figure out which of those options will work best for them and the space. “Sometimes that means adding things like pocket doors in place of a normal door to save space and provide better flow. We would also educate the client on the pros and cons, noting that this type of door might not keep as much sound out and discuss if that will be a problem for them based on the room,” explained Fritz.

The Final Project
The final project submittals included a detailed programming binder with an explanation of the design solution, programming information, diagrams and information gathered from research. This is where the students referenced specification information for the furniture, fixture, artwork, accessories and finishes. Detailed construction documents (floor plans, elevations, reflected ceiling plans, cabinetry sections and wall sections), study models and presentation boards were also required for the final design solution.

Reviews on Sydney Fritz’ Design Project:
“Sydney seemed to have a great understanding of the design style which can be seen in her furniture, material selections and in her programming information,” said Professor Ann Marie Ragan. “Her selections incorporated furniture pieces that were representative of the Post War/Mid-century designs and upholstered in rich colors and textures. Sydney’s selections of artwork provided vibrancy to the space and helped to connect the many interior design elements utilized throughout the space.”

A Student’s Perspective: Investing in Design
“If people are willing to put money into building a house, I think they should also set aside a portion of their budget for having the house designed professionally,” said Fritz. “If it’s done right, you won’t be buying new furniture every two years, you’ll be buying statement pieces or good, classic pieces that will last a long time and fit the scale of your house. Some people fill large spaces with furniture that’s too small and it can really diminish the space being used and limit the liveable space.”

“I think homeowners should also gain a designer’s advice on where light switches and lighting should go. The electricians will do what is most functional for them, but not always what is needed for you or the home’s design,” said Fritz. “Working with a designer can open up a world of new furniture lines and brands that most people have never heard of. Some of these lines are only available to designers and what they can offer can really transform a home. Designers work with many of the local and national stores to gain access to furniture, rug, drapery and fabric lines that can open up far more options than what you see in the stores.”


Interior Design vs. Retail Merchandising
“There are technically students from two different majors who currently enroll in the ADHM 251 Interior Design Studio I: Residential Studio course, interior design and retail merchandising with a focus in interior merchandising,” said Professor Ragan. “While these students take some of the same classes, these are very different majors, but both happen to be in the Department of Apparel, Design, and Hospitality Management.”

The Degree:
Interior Design

Distinguishing between Fritz’s major and interior design degrees, is the program coordinator for the interior design program, Dr. Susan Ray-Degges. “The interior design program is accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA). Here, students study design fundamentals, theory, process, communication, research and technology to identify and solve problems for a wide range of physical, interior environments for all individuals regardless of socioeconomic background or situation.”

Three Career Paths of Interior Design
As Dr. Ray-Degges explained, “There are three main career paths that are typically chosen by the design professional; residential, commercial and specialized design. Residential involves the design of personal living environments while commercial design deals with public and work environments. Design professionals may also pursue career opportunities in such specialized technical design areas as lighting, codes, product design or product representative.”

Sydney Fritz’s Major:
Fritz’s area of study is Retail Merchandising with Interior Merchandising focus in the Apparel, Retail Merchandising and Design major. To explain Fritz’s focus, we spoke to the Apparel, Retail Merchandising, and Design (ARMD) program coordinator, Dr. Jaeha Lee at NDSU. “The retail merchandising option in the (ARMD) program provides students with a firm grasp of retail business strategy. Graduates hold positions as buyers, store managers, visual merchandisers, marketing managers, sales and account executives, and trend forecasters with many retail companies. The course of study includes classes on buying and merchandise planning, global retailing, promotion, global trade, consumer behavior, trend forecasting and the analysis of textile products. Students in the retail merchandising option can choose a focus in the areas of textile product merchandising or interior merchandising. If students choose a focus in the area of interior merchandising, they take several courses in interior design that provide the knowledge needed to enter retail interior careers.”

Interested in a career in Interior Design or Retail Merchandising?
Contact North Dakota State University, Fargo
Academic Advisor
Connie Eggers
E. Morrow Lebedeff Hall 270

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Perfecting the Patient Experience

Photography by J. Alan Paul Photography When we think of healthcare and virtually any clinical environment, blinding fluorescent lights and ill-designed, sterile surroundings are typically what come to mind. Recognizing…

Photography by J. Alan Paul Photography

When we think of healthcare and virtually any clinical environment, blinding fluorescent lights and ill-designed, sterile surroundings are typically what come to mind. Recognizing a change in the way healthcare is approached, Dr. Fadel Nammour and his wife Heidi Nammour of Dakota Gastroenterology Clinic worked closely with Paces Lodging architect, Kim Matteson to redefine the patient experience.

From the exterior, the South Fargo clinic is reminiscent of a contemporary spa with its clean lines and varying textural elements. “We just looked online and drove around and took different pieces of buildings that we liked,” said Heidi Nammour. “Then I would take pictures and get them to Kim Matteson, the architect at Paces Lodging. I wanted the exterior to have dimension as well, so we were able to do that using varying materials for the siding.” Inside, Heidi Nammour designed the space’s 6,500 square-feet to be a soothing sanctuary for incoming patients.

Clinical Comfort
In this business, Dr. Nammour knows that putting patients at ease with a comfortable environment is a prerequisite for better healthcare. “It’s a Gastroenterology clinic. When people hear colonoscopy, they flinch,” laughed Dr. Nammour. “We tried to create a warm environment prior to the procedure so they will be comfortable here in the waiting room and the suites. A lot of patients have been telling me that when they come here, they feel like this is a spa or a home. They wait in comfort and when they go into the procedure, they are much more relaxed.”

These days, even hospitals are rethinking their decor in their new construction and remodels, veering away from the more sterile, institutionalized environment they’ve been known for in the past. “We wanted a more modern, contemporary look, trying to stay away from that cold, clinical feel one would expect,” said Heidi Nammour.

Waiting Room I
In the Endoscopy waiting room, Heidi Nammour chose a modern, Scan Design sofa accented with beautiful statement pieces from online sources, Wayfair and Joss & Main. High ceilings and expansive windows bathe elements of reclaimed wood, glass and stone in natural light.

Waiting Room II
To create a contemporary space with warmth, Heidi Nammour favored rich textures like marbled quartz, stacked stone and comfortable furnishings.

For the room’s rustic elements, she chose a Grain Designs magazine rack coffee table, floating shelves, side tables and custom barn doors.

To get the custom barn door hue, Grain Designs used a whitewash finish with an ebony stain. “I wanted something unique for the ceiling, so I spent a lot of time looking online, at different magazines and on the Houzz app for inspiration for the round ceiling details,” said Heidi Nammour.

“I had a vision of white countertops with marbling to help create a modern look to complement the rustic feel of the barn doors. I got ideas for the reception desks by looking through magazines and going online searching out reception desks,” said Heidi Nammour. “I gave Paces pictures of what I wanted based on what I found, and eventually came up with a design which incorporated reclaimed wood for the front of the desk to match the custom barn door. I knew from the very beginning I wanted barn doors and a reclaimed wood wall. For the flooring, I chose a distressed, vinyl laminate in a wider plank design.”

The Doctor Will See You Now
On the clinic side, a long hallway consisting of exam rooms is designed with custom barn doors from Grain Designs.

Beyond the exam rooms, patients can relax in one of the many La-Z-Boy-style recliners chosen to provide comfort for the patients.

Architect, Kim Matteson of Paces Lodging
“From the very beginning, Heidi and Fadel had a vision for what they wanted their contemporary building to look like. They had photos of design elements, materials and colors that they showed me and wanted to be incorporated into their building. Those were so beneficial and became a starting point for the design of the exterior and also as a basis for the interior finishes,” explained Matteson. “We utilized three-dimensional modeling as we worked through the exterior elevations and how the various materials would look and be arranged on the building. Then we were able to present those ideas to them from all possible views. We even used 3-D modeling when we worked on the design of the curved reception desk and its varied elements. The interior finishes are also a contemporary arrangement of materials and features that incorporate their design style into distinct and appealing spaces for their patients.”

Dakota Gastroenterology Clinic
Dakota Gastroenterology Clinic is an independently-owned clinic specializing in digestive health since 2014. The clinic offers diagnosis and treatment of digestive conditions as well as a non-surgical weight loss procedure.

About Dr. Nammour
Dr. Fadel Nammour is a board-certified gastroenterologist. He is originally from Lebanon and moved to Fargo in 2002 after completing his internal medicine and gastroenterology fellowship in New Jersey. When his career took him to Essentia Health, he met Heidi, who was a nurse at the time. Today, the couple resides in West Fargo with their three sons.

Find the Finishes
Contractor – Paces Lodging
Architect – Kim Matteson, Paces Lodging
Barn doors, side tables and floating shelves – Grain Designs
Fireplace – Home & Hearth
Flooring – All States Flooring
Quartz countertops -Fabricators Unlimited
Artwork – SCHEELS Home & Hardware, Kirkland’s
Recliners – A&B Business Solutions
Roofing – Herzog Roofing
EIFS – OTXteriors
Landscaping – Pro Landscapers LLC
Painting – Weyer for Hire LLC
Casework and plastic laminate countertops – Woodside Industries
Aluminum windows and doors – Galaxy Glass and Caulking
Doors and millwork – Builders Millwork, Inc.
Plumbing & HVAC contractor: Midwest Mechanical Construction, LLC
Electrical contractor – JDP Electric Inc.

For more information, contact:

Dakota Gastroenterology

5049 33rd Avenue South, Fargo

Paces Lodging
Kimberly Matteson – Senior Project Designer, Associate AIA

4265 45th Street South, Suite 200, Fargo



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[ Inside the New ] McNeal & Friends

Sisters, Rondi McGovern and Shelly Neal opened their home boutique, McNeal & Friends nearly six years ago on Broadway in Downtown Fargo. With a focus on high-end design services and…

Sisters, Rondi McGovern and Shelly Neal opened their home boutique, McNeal & Friends nearly six years ago on Broadway in Downtown Fargo. With a focus on high-end design services and exclusive furniture lines, their business quickly blossomed. This year, McNeal & Friends made the move South to the Shoppes at BLU Water Creek. Going from 1,900 square feet to 5,000 meant doubling their staff and expanding their inventory. With the expansion came a stunning new showroom and complete design studio offering a fresh new take on home decor.

From Left; Jayne Wilson, Bree Duval, Shelly Neal, Kendra Steffes, Rondi McGovern, Desirae Putnam, Pam Miller. Not shown, Trever Hill, Sydney Fritz, Holly Peterson, and Chase Nishek and Nancy Bong.

Although Neal and McGovern longed to keep their roots planted in Downtown Fargo amidst the excitement of Broadway, the reality was that they needed more space for their expanding furniture lines and design studio. “We really wanted to stay downtown, but after months of searching, we just couldn’t find the right combination of accessibility and parking for moving furniture in and out of the store,” said Neal. “We heard about the Shoppes at BLU Water Creek and the women-centric shops that would be in this area and realized that it might be a great fit.” The new space would offer a high-visibility location while doubling their square footage.

Neal and McGovern have found that both of their passions are necessary to running a successful business. Neal manages the designers and studio while McGovern handles the store’s business and accounting. Besides Neal, they currently employ two other designers, Jayne Wilson and Trever Hill, along with six team members who handle retail layout, inventory and management of the store.


Whether you’re looking to browse or gain guidance on a design project, McNeal & Friends welcomes both shoppers and design clients in one location. Shoppers will find their entire staff is quite knowledgeable in the array of furnishings and decor, with two of their retail associates currently enrolled in design courses at NDSU. To find their unique accessories, dishware, linens and furnishings, the team routinely travels to Market in North Carolina, Atlanta and Las Vegas. Their travels bring home over 100 high-style lines once thought to only be carried in larger cities.

McNeal & Friends carries sought-after Michael Aram gift and collector items, as well as dishware by Vietri, Simon Pearce, Juliska and their newest line, Farmhouse Pottery. Just in time for summer, a must-see is Juliska’s new melamine and acrylic collection which is perfect for patio and poolside dining.

Hand-poured Lafco, Nest and Mer-Sea & Co. candles can be found throughout the showroom. Artwork in an array of styles features the silver-framed work of Soicher Marin and Shadow Catchers’ vintage collection of swim caps.

Please Sit on the Furniture
“Although we loved the old store, we didn’t have the space to carry enough styles for people to try out and actually be able to sit on and experience in-person. Here, we’ve been able to bring in a lot more options so our clients can try it before they buy it and feel confident in placing special orders for furnishings,” said McGovern. Guests can expect to browse an eclectic mix of styles from Lee Industries, Highland House, Four Hands, Hickory Chair, Gabby Home, Palacek and Bunakara, with luxury linens by Amity Home and Pine Cone Hill.

“We have a really unique chandelier line that can’t be found anywhere else in town, Ro Sham Beaux,” said Wilson. “This line has a lot of beautiful detail in the hardware and brass. They also use sustainable and recycled materials such as hemp, organic cotton and beads. Anything that you see with the signature tassel on is Ro Sham Beaux.”

“We’ve expanded on our coffee table and cookbooks as well as our tote line by Graf & Lantz. We love their felt, wool tote bags with leather handles,” said Wilson. “We also carry Mer-Sea & Co. wraps and ponchos which are really nice for the beach or traveling because you can fold it into the bag and use it as a pillow.” Accessories and gift items can be found throughout the showroom with unique items from Mainly Baskets, Chilewich, Sugarboo & Co. and new this year, gorgeous shell and bone bead sets from Bliss Studio.

Design Studio
“Our new design studio has everything in it from fabric samples to Phillip Jeffries wallpaper, Hunter Douglas window coverings, carpet, rugs and more,” said designer, Jayne Wilson. “Now customers or designers can come in and pull fabrics themselves and really use our studio.”

“Although we have access to just about any line a client could want, we don’t place limits on our designers to stay within the store’s inventory,” said Neal. “It’s just about creating spaces that speak to the individual. Trever and Jayne do a wonderful job working with and really understanding their clients.”

In their studio, guests are welcome to browse fabric options and upholstery from high-style lines like Lee Industries, CR Laine, Highland House and Kravet. The new space also features many different rug and carpet options. “Dash & Albert is one we work with a lot, but we also offer Jaipur, Kravet and Ellen DeGeneres’ collection of rugs through Loloi,” said Wilson. “This year, we’re also offering more one-of-a-kind, vintage Persian rugs.”

“In the design studio, we love when people drop in and if one of our designers is available, we can certainly meet with them right away,” explained Neal. To guarantee a designer’s time, clients can simply call and schedule a time to meet.

Setting the Tone
“In staging the store and choosing our accessories, we really thought about spring and going into the lake season,” said Wilson. “We chose a lot of coastal navy tones and a timeless, deeper green tone in accessories. Navy is really reminiscent of the lake and sea and using green in a design really brings the outdoors in, which a lot of people are trying to do this time of year.”

Shopping for Inspiration
“Whenever I travel, I make sure I go to other home furnishing shops. More often than not, the stores that I’m drawn to are left sparse and kind of let the furnishings do the talking,” said Neal. “If anything, our store is inspired by a great store in Atlanta called Bungalow Classic – this is one of my favorites. To achieve that kind of vibe, we really wanted the showroom to have a clean look and bring in as much natural light as we could. We like neutrals and layering of textures, but warmer colors are definitely coming back. We find that the pendulum is swinging back to a more traditional and timeless look.”

Up and Coming!
Follow McNeal & Friends on social media to find out about upcoming events and their May grand opening celebration.


For more information, contact:

McNeal & Friends
3265 45th Street South, Fargo

701. 235.0031
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The Starving Rooster [Minot & Bismarck]

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Scott Amundson Photography Most people know Chris Hawley as an award-winning architect of homes, but in Western North Dakota, he’s a jack-of-all-trades. Back in…

Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Scott Amundson Photography

Most people know Chris Hawley as an award-winning architect of homes, but in Western North Dakota, he’s a jack-of-all-trades. Back in their hometown of Minot, Chris and his wife, Sarah Hawley, had ventured into developing and restoring old buildings when they struck a partnership to create a new restaurant concept, The Starving Rooster. See inside the Minot location inspired by the 1917 Aultman & Taylor Machinery Co. and the Bismarck location that just opened its doors last year. While their infamous, starved rooster logo was once known as a symbol of farm equipment efficiency, starving the rooster to better feed the farmer – it now symbolizes a fantastic, brick-oven dining experience with a respectful nod to their hometown heritage.

Restoration vs. Restaurant
Six years ago, Chris Hawley, his brother-in-law, Chad Thompson, and Thompson’s cousin, Joel Welstad, decided to buy the 1917 Minot building that was originally the home of the parts and distribution warehouse for Aultman & Taylor. Located in an industrial part of Minot, the team began their project by designing 21 units of funky, loft-style apartments on the top half of the building. “At the time, during the oil boom, Minot was in a housing shortage. As we got closer to the end and started discussing the street level, we realized that we had a lot of interest from others, so eventually, we decided to do our own restaurant concept,” said Hawley.

The Concept
The Aultman & Taylor Machinery Co. dates back to 1859 in Ohio, but the Minot building was completed in 1917. Employing a clever marketing tool, their starving rooster logo appealed to nearly every farmer in the Midwest. “The company built threshing machines, so their whole story was that they made a threshing machine that was so effective in sifting the grain that it didn’t leave even a spec of grain behind for the roosters to eat – so the roosters starved,” explained Hawley. This logo would soon become the inspiration behind The Starving Rooster restaurants which Hawley and his partners designed using a 1917 Aultman & Taylor catalog they found archived in Ohio.

Back then, catalogs were hand-drawn, black and white etchings or illustrations, so Hawley and his partners wanted to properly display them as the art they truly are. The original illustrations of farm equipment now grace the walls of the restaurant and tell the story of the building and tractor company. Taking it one step further, the partners opted to use reclaimed materials from the original Aultman & Taylor building as well as salvaged material and farm equipment parts from Welstad’s family farm.

In the midst of their restoration, Hawley and his partners brought in Jeremy Mahaney, another Minot native who was, at the time, operating restaurants in Minneapolis. Today, he runs both their Minot and Bismarck locations of The Starving Rooster. Their first location in Minot would open four years ago with a second, Bismarck location following just last year.

The Starving Rooster: Minot
Specializing in brick-oven pizzas and sandwiches, the Minot restaurant has a casual vibe fused with a rich history rooted in farming. Hawley and his partners kept as much of the original Aultman & Taylor building that they could. “We left the loading dock open, putting in garage doors that can open in the summer months. In 1917, people used to pull up in their Model-Ts, back their car in here, load up their parts and head back to the farm,” said Hawley. Nowadays, the garage doors open up to Main Street, providing front row access to local street fairs and street dances.

The partners kept much of the original paint and walls from 1917, salvaging every bit of the original building and repurposing whatever materials they found. To build the tap line running across the bar, the team recruited Larry Larson of P2 Industries to fabricate a large industrial pipe to hold the beer lines. Four of the bar stools are designed using old tractor seats and the dining chairs were custom-built for the restaurant.

“We actually used the old garage doors as the ceiling and up-lit them so they glow in the dining room area,” said Hawley. “We loved the raw floors, so what you see is the actual red paint from the old shop.”

Salvaging the hardwood floors from the upper level, the partners repurposed them into custom dining booths. “Joel built all of the wood booths and benches in place,” said Hawley. “He was the general contractor on this and Jeremy put in a lot of sweat equity as well doing the barn doors and all of those projects. I pulled the permit, Joel did the construction and Jeremy provided a ton of labor.”

Using the original drawing from Aultman & Taylor’s catalog, the partners had it printed on acrylic and mounted over the brick wall in the dining area. Look up and you’ll find a custom-designed, lathe and acoustic ceiling within the lighting. As the project’s general contractor, Welstad used salvaged finds from his family’s farm and recruited their welder and handyman to fabricated the railings in place. “They made all of the furniture and anything steel – so all of the chairs, railings and steel-top tables. The table bases are all cultivator disks,” said Hawley.

Head towards the heat and you’ll find the brick-oven pizza area, complete with a canopy based on one of Aultman & Taylor’s designs. This is a replication of an original tractor canopy that would have covered the cab.

Their ode to the building’s history doesn’t stop with the interior’s design – all of their brick oven pizzas are named after one of the Aultman & Taylor tractors – “Old Trusty”, “Yellow Fellow”, “The Triple Gear” and many more. “The Thai flatbread pizza is one of the most popular. We also do a pulled pork sandwich that everyone loves and a Sunday brunch with an amazing spread,” said Hawley.

The Starving Rooster: Bismarck
After finding success at the Minot location, the team focused their efforts on opening a Bismarck location, also on Main Street. Instead of a farm equipment company, this space was once an automotive shop and car dealership. “It’s an old building, but it was so goofy that in the 80s and 90s they kind of put it back together. In the process, they took away all of the cool, old features,” said Hawley. “They had to cover up the brick and everything else to get the insulation to work. So, at the end of the day, it’s got an old front on it, but it’s really more of a new building. It was basically a vanilla shell, sheetrock box and we kind of had to make it cool again.” To complete the transformation, the partners brought in all of the brick and panels while the other materials were repurposed from the Welstad farm.

At the entrance, guests are greeted with the same ode to Aultman & Taylor displayed on red panels from the side of a combine that Welstad had sitting in a field. These panels feature a prominent image and text from the cover of Aultman & Taylor’s 1917 catalog, relayed on acrylic.

“This was made from a grain auger taken out of the trees at the Welstad farm. So, we are essentially augering beer out of the silo across this area and directing it to the taps,” said Hawley. “On one side of the silo, we have a door that leads to the liquor storage and on the other side, we have four taps. We also have wine and iced coffee on tap.”

“This wall is kind of fun – everyone asks, ‘What’s up with the cross?’”laughed Hawley.
“It’s actually an ‘x’. It’s like the ‘You are here.’ marking your spot on the map. So this is our map leading to the bathroom. At the other end, there’s an arrow pointing to the bathroom.”

In this area, the team used sifting panels from a grain dryer at the Welstad farm, then backlit them for more dimension. If the pendant lights look familiar, that’s because the shades are actually the teeth of a corn header.

Cultivator disks were once again repurposed into bases for the tables and the team reused the remaining windows left over from the Minot building. “Some of the elements from the Minot space show up again, but the Bismarck location is a totally different and reimagined space,” said Hawley.

If you’re ready to flock to one of their two locations, here’s where you can find them:
The Starving Rooster – Minot, N.D.
30 First Street Northeast

The Starving Rooster – Bismarck, N.D.
512 East Main Avenue

See their full menu and hours of operation at:

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Laurie’s [Shoppes at BLU Water Creek]

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Dan Francis Photography As the first store to open in Shoppes at BLU Water Creek, Laurie’s had already experienced 38 years of success as…

Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography
As the first store to open in Shoppes at BLU Water Creek, Laurie’s had already experienced 38 years of success as one of the area’s most distinguished, specialty clothing boutiques. After 10 years in their 32nd Avenue location, owner Kristi Larkin decided it was time to start a new chapter in a brand-new shopping destination. Despite her stunning new store and expanded inventory, Larkin continues to thrive relying on a concept she’s coined, The Laurie’s Way. To Larkin, this means carrying on the true boutique experience of offering a wide variety of beautiful clothing, in fewer, more exclusive quantities. If that doesn’t lure you in, we’ll introduce you to the unofficial store greeter, Lily – a “teddy bear” Bichon Frise Shih Tzu mix.

A Passion for Fashion
Larkin discovered her passion for fashion and retail merchandising early on, starting at Dayton’s when she was 16, then working at Laurie’s while obtaining a degree in both Apparel and Textiles as well as Business. Larkin went on to work as a buyer for Dayton’s before returning to the area.Creating a unique boutique experience, Larkin firmly believes that her beloved sidekick Lily is part of the charm. “Lily is our main host here at the store. People always ask about her – if I had a store full of Lilys, I could retire,” laughed Larkin. “Most people want to know if she’s for sale.” Not only can guests enjoy Lily’s company as they peruse the racks, guests are also welcome to bring their own furry friends. This is a concept Larkin sees in her travels and wanted to incorporate into her own store environment.

“The front area was really meant to be a comfortable space for not only our customers but also for their spouses and children,” said Larkin. “There’s a T.V. for Bison games or cartoons for the kids along with beverages they can help themselves to while they’re waiting. It’s also a nice, relaxing place for people who are coming in from out of town. Having a space like this can really make it an enjoyable experience all around.” Beyond relaxation, Larkin also uses this area for entertaining during trunk shows and other events throughout the year.

Boutique guests will find an array of brands like 7 For All Mankind, Joseph Ribkoff, Bailey 44, Brighton, Dana Stein Furs, David Cline, Ecru, Elliot Lauren, Fifteen Twenty, Halebob, Pure Amici, In Cashmere and many more.

“Our key to success is knowing who we are and what we stand for – then being true to our vision.”
Kristi Larkin, Owner of Laurie’s

Perks of the New Location:
After seeing many of her 32nd Avenue South neighbors relocate to this area, Larkin’s interest was piqued. When Hair Success owners Jill Krahn and Jodi Ellingson contacted her about the new Shoppes at BLU Water Creek, it didn’t take Larkin long to make the decision. The move would double her square footage and give her better visibility in a high-traffic and thriving neighborhood.

Larkin also helped recruit some of her neighbors to the area. “I think our businesses really compliment one another and I felt it would give people more reasons to visit this area and help create a destination,” said Larkin. “I’m just so excited at how it’s all come together and I feel grateful to have been asked to be a part of it. I’m happy that they thought enough of us and the history we bring to the community, to think that we should be here and be part of this new community and shopping experience. I like to think of it as we’re all a little family in the neighborhood.”

Finding the Perfect Fit
In the new location, Larkin was able to expand and redesign her spacious fitting rooms. Just outside of the fitting rooms, Larkin has done away with the disappearing store clerk, a problem so many stores face while working on inventory in the back of the house. She’s designed a merchandise station out front, allowing her to do the daily inventory work, yet still see to her guests every whim at the nearby fitting rooms. During trunk shows, this space transforms into one of two entertaining spaces throughout the store.

Staying Classy
“This is definitely a dream of mine. Fashion and retail merchandising had always been a love. When my mentor, Laurie (Chatham) retired, it was an opportunity where the timing was right for me,” said Larkin. “As a divorced, single mom, it provided work-life balance for me and my daughter, Hailey. She could be here with me on days when she didn’t have school. She’s 19 now, but she still comes and helps out from time to time when she doesn’t have class.”

“Our key to success is knowing who we are and what we stand for – then being true to our vision,” said Larkin. This means keeping standards high and concepts simple. In visiting with Larkin, her passion is clear and her goal has always been one thing – to create a true boutique experience, rooted solely in her love of beautiful clothing and accessories. Laurie’s does not carry mass quantities of any particular item and for good reason. By offering a wide variety of clothing in fewer, more exclusive quantities, guests are content knowing that fewer people will be playing the inevitable game of “Who wore it best?”. For Larkin, the perfect fit means personalizing the experience for each customer and promoting a positive body image through exclusive and timeless fashions.

For more information, contact:
3265 45th St. S. Suite 100, Fargo

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A “Home Away From Home” [Inside Fargo’s new Ronald McDonald House]

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Britta the Photographer Since 1982, the Fargo Ronald McDonald House team has been striving to create a comfortable, home-like setting for out-of-town families dealing…

Words by Tracy Nicholson

Photography by Britta the Photographer

Since 1982, the Fargo Ronald McDonald House team has been striving to create a comfortable, home-like setting for out-of-town families dealing with a devastating diagnosis. This team knows all too well the effect that a childhood condition or disease can have on an entire family, adding new levels of emotional and financial stress that can elevate an already traumatic time. With more and more families seeking care in Fargo, the need to provide for them has only grown. After years of planning and fundraising, the team is proud to unveil the new, expanded Ronald McDonald House. This is a home in every sense of the word; built on our community’s generosity, with a foundation centered on family.

A Vision for Caring
When the RMH team found out about Sanford’s new campus in 2010, they decided it was time to start thinking about their strategic plan for the future. With their two existing homes busting at the seams, the team, led by executive director, Jill Christopher, started fundraising in 2015 and would eventually break ground at their new location last July.

Working with Foss Architecture + Interiors and Nor-Son, the RMH team was finally able to see their long-time vision become a reality. To design their dream house, the RMH team researched over 20 other Ronald McDonald Houses, taking their ideas to the architect and contractor. They would need to merge their two other homes into one new location. “Nor-Son was amazing at getting us a price that we could actually afford,” said Christopher.

“This community is incredibly generous. This is a five million dollar project and we’ve raised over $4.7 of that, so we are really close to our goal,” adds Christopher. “It was nice that our donors got a chance to jump on board early and be part of the vision that we were working towards. They all kind of found their space that really meant a lot to them. There are so many more amenities here and about 90% of our families go to the nearby Sanford. So, the location is key here. You can see the new house from Sanford, so it makes it really easy for our guests to find.”

Take a Tour!
Upon arrival, new families meet in a private office with staff of the Ronald McDonald House to plan their stay and learn more about the process. “We typically have families who will stay on average 10 days. Our longest stay has been about six months,” said Christopher. “Most of our families are coming from the NICU with premature babies, but we also work with cancer, eating disorders and everything in between. Families are able to self-refer to the house, but most of our families find out about it from the hospital staff. Our families are asked to pay only $20 a night if they are able, but no one is turned away if they cannot pay. Last year, 90% of our families paid nothing to stay here and we couldn’t do that without the donors that help make this possible.”

Across the hall, families can visit the library and the arts and crafts room. The library is a quiet place for parents who might be trying to work during their stay. In the arts and crafts room, guests will find a custom mural painted by artist, Emily Brooks.

Just past the entrance, staff now have access to a wing devoted to their office space, break room and administration. Right now RMH has only six full-time and three part-time staff members.

At the Heart of the Home
The RMH team made sure to design a kitchen that could accommodate multiple families and groups of volunteers who arrive daily to cook meals. Their design incorporates three kitchens, with one designated for volunteers. A larger pantry, three stoves, two sinks and two massive islands encompass the space with one area of accommodations designed for individuals with disabilities.

Envisioning a space at the heart of the home where their families could gather in a comfortable setting, their expansive dining room seats up to 30 at a time, overlooking the soon-to-be landscaped backyard and in close proximity to the rooms designated for teens and young children.

Caring for Kids
Just off the dining room, guests will find a special place just for the kids. Collaborating with Foss Architecture to design the playhouse, they were able to incorporate working lights, a mailbox, flowers and a doorbell. This space also features a reading and dress-up area designed to keep little ones happy and occupied.

“We have a boy who stayed with us over the course of about seven years during his cancer treatment. We saw how important it was that he was able to do normal kids things like playing with mega blocks, playing UNO and running around the house like children do. In this new location, we were able to bring all of those things plus a lot more,” said Christopher. “Even that little sense of normalcy when they don’t have a lot of normal in their life at that time makes a big difference.”

As the weather warms, their backyard landscape will be completed to include a fenced backyard with a Rainbow Play System and playhouse for the kids, which will be easily visible from the inside kitchen and dining area.

The Magic Room
With so many of their guest families going through trying times, the RMH team knew all too well that sometimes the kids needed a little extra magic to brighten their day. Paul Dezotell of Sioux Falls, S.D., created the beautiful wall leading to the area the team refers to as the “Magic Room”.

“They come to the entrance and after they say the magic words, the door opens automatically,” explained Christopher. “We have little costumes they can wear and they have to have the magic wand in their hand. When they enter the room, they get to choose one item from our walls of donated toys. It’s nice for the kids that might be here for care, but also really nice for their siblings if they’re feeling a little left out.”

Gaming & Theater Room
In their previous space, RMH noticed a lack of space for older kids and adults, so RMH designed a special gaming and theater room to better suit teens or adults. “We enjoyed working with the NDSU Student-Athlete Association and Fargo Pinball to pull this room together,” said Christopher. “They came in and designed the gaming and DVD systems with theater chairs that recline to watch the game as well as our Star Wars pinball machine.”

Still in the early stages, located on the first floor, guest will soon have a full fitness room stocked with equipment for the families to use during their stay.

“It’s more than a hotel or a place to sleep,” said Christopher. “It’s also them being able to have that support system from the volunteers and staff here and the other families staying here. After a day at the hospital, they can come back here and talk to people who know what they’re going through and have a real conversation about their day. This house is built to have those places to help them relieve some stress.”

Second Floor Living
With donations from La-Z-Boy and other generous donors, they were able to create a space near the guest rooms where families can relax, unwind and even enjoy a fun game night.

Just off of the family room, guests have access to a complimentary laundry room, complete with four washers and dryers.

Guest Rooms
The second floor features 12 guest rooms, most of them sleeping four people with private bathrooms and blackout curtains for those who need to sleep during the day. Two of their rooms provide for larger families and are able to sleep six with one ADA room featuring larger turn radiuses for wheelchairs and a roll-in shower design.

All of the mattresses were donated by Tempurpedic with furniture donated by Solid Comfort. Mini-fridges will be coming soon and every family gets a welcome blanket which they’ll find at the end of their bed. “The blankets we have now were given in memory of a little boy who stayed with but has since passed away,” said Christopher. “A group of his FCCLA people from his hometown made them which is really sweet, it makes me smile to see them.”

To set a beautiful tone, one of their board member’s sons, Micah Zimmerman donated his photography images and Solid Signs printed them for artwork to be hung in the guest rooms. “Every guest room will have the same images, with one being a little more Minnesota and the other more North Dakota, so it relates to all of our visiting families,” said Christopher.

Ready for Expansion!
With growth inevitably on the way, the team is planning for seven more guest rooms that are currently shelled-in on the third floor. Right now, 17 of their 24 total rooms are finished.


Did you Know?

In 1977, a social worker in Fargo, Wayne Allard, noticed that too many families with sick children in Fargo were sleeping on floors or in their car due to financial issues. With the help of a mother of a child with leukemia, he set out to make a change, eventually spearheading the 1982 opening of the first Fargo Ronald McDonald House on North Broadway. In May of 2005, the second Fargo Ronald McDonald House was opened on South University Drive.


Built for the Future
“We are sad to leave our previous homes behind, but this new home has really brought us into a modern era of how people want to live today and how we can serve them better – it just provides so much more opportunity for our families and our growth,” said Christopher. “We also have expansion capabilities on the third floor plus the ability to add-on in the future.”

This new building will allow the RMH team to incorporate more programming and activities for the families they care for. “We have Beta, our therapy dog and we will be able to incorporate more things like having coffee and conversation programs, art therapy, music and different things that might bring some families comfort that we weren’t able to do in our old building,” explained Christopher. “We’re also working on a project with Essentia to put in a small space over there for families in the NICU called ‘The Family Room’. This project is still in the works, going through state approvals right now.”

Volunteer your Time
For those who are considering volunteering, we encourage you to take the leap. “We have almost a thousand volunteers a year that come in and share their talents, make meals, clean, organize or help with events,” said Christopher. “That’s something that really means a lot to us and allows us to do what we do with a very small staff of nine people. The community that we live in and the people that are willing to help us are incredible.”

Donate to the Ronald McDonald House!
The new home is fully donation-funded. “We couldn’t do this without the donors; from everyone who gives money, whether it’s five dollars or five thousand dollars, it all adds up,” said Christopher. “We couldn’t have made this happen or run this home without the volunteers and donors.”

“Some of the things we need right now are Keurig K-Cups, paper towels, Clorox wipes and Swiffer cleaning items,” said Christopher. “K-Cups are really popular with our families because they can come down and make the coffee they want, which is a small thing, but it means a lot to our families. Also, our laundry is free for families, so we’re always in need of laundry detergent. Obviously, monetary donations are always helpful, but we take donations of blankets, toys, food, any type of paper product – really anything you would use in your own home, we’d probably be able to use here.”

Find the Finishes:
Architect – Foss Architecture + Interiors
Contractor – Nor-Son
Theater chairs – Ashley Homestore
NDSU Bison gear – NDSU Student-Athlete Association
Signage – Office Sign Company
Guest room furniture – Solid Comfort
Guest room artwork – Micah Zimmerman, Solid Signs
Family room tent – Modern Textiles
Family room furniture – La-Z-Boy
Dining tables – Furniture Mart
Magic room wall design – Paul Dezotell, Paul Dez Arts
Arts and crafts mural – Emily Brooks
Playhouse – Foss Architecture + Interiors

For more information on donating to the Ronald McDonald House, contact:
Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Red River Valley
4757 Agassiz Crossing South, Fargo
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[Inside] Gate City Bank – Downtown Fargo Renovation

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by J. Alan Paul Photography The joy of featuring local office design is showing spaces that you and I may never get the chance to…

Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by J. Alan Paul Photography

The joy of featuring local office design is showing spaces that you and I may never get the chance to see. In the heart of Downtown Fargo, Gate City Bank has been busy at work renovating their second-floor. To explain it, we ask you to imagine coming to work in an environment which mimics a beautiful home. Now imagine that home with stunning artwork, high-end finishes, nine TVs, a treadmill workstation, state-of-the-art kitchen and an array of collaborative workspaces to suit your every mood. To find out why Gate City Bank believes their space defines their culture, we met with Jay Krabbenhoft, Senior Vice President of Administration, who gave us an in-depth tour of their new, second-floor space designed to inspire… with all the comforts of home.

Renewal & Renovation | Second Floor

To create a more inviting atmosphere for everyone, Chairman, President and CEO, Steve Swiontek provided his vision to the Gate City Bank design team who collaborated with architect Andrew Koedam of Wild | CRG. With Wild | CRG officing within the Gate City Bank building, he has become embedded in their culture, often attending company events and gatherings to better understand their culture, goals and needs.

Serving over 250 corporate office employees, Gate City Bank’s goal was to create a work environment that would exceed the needs of their team members. To accomplish this, all of the workstations are designed to accommodate a sit or stand option, with adjustable desk heights and three monitors.

Although most would assume an open office plan would result in amplified noise levels, this space is specifically engineered for sound reduction via architectural elements like extra floor padding and a specialized drapery which absorbs noise.

Along the atrium’s south wall, Gate City Bank has undergone an extensive facelift, creating a new wall of 13-foot windows harvesting abundant natural light and aiding in their employee’s well-being.

Investing in an Inspired Environment

Gate City Bank is well-known for being an avid supporter of the art community. Over 80 percent of their paintings, pottery and sculpture pieces are sourced from local artists and galleries.

Second-Floor Artists Featured:

Boyd Sharp, Susan Piazza, Carrie Swanke, Mary Johnston, Josaine Childers, Smith Carney, Barnes, Michael Thompson, Tim McFadden, Sandi Dahl, Will Richard, Hong, Yuenxu, Kathleen Hope, P.T. Tiersky, Mantin, Sue Boyd, James Wolberg, Linda Kall, Ursula Brenner and Davidson.

“By creating visually appealing, unique, and transparent working environments for our team members, we’re able to foster a culture of creativity and innovation. We have a passion for making the lives of our customers and team members better, by investing in them and their communities for a better way of life.”
Steve Swiontek, Chairman, President and CEO, Gate City Bank.

For this renovation, the bank worked with local artists to carefully choose each piece and location for install. “There are over 250 people who work in this building, so we believe everyone here should get to enjoy local art. It helps support the art community and it enhances the work environment,” explained Krabbenhoft. “The better part of our day is spent at work, so it’s nice to be able to incorporate some fun and creativity. We want all of the team members to experience each piece, so we move and circulate the art amongst the different floors for everyone to enjoy.”

“We really have to give all the credit to our Chairman, President, and CEO Steve Swiontek, for setting the tone for us to do this. He really drives this unique culture and truly believes in investing in his team and their environment. The second-floor renovation is proof of this commitment. This is designed solely for the health and well-being of the team,” said Krabbenhoft.

Transforming Walls into Art

At the entrance to the second floor, their renovation sets the tone with a custom-designed, diamond-plate ceramic tile floor and laser-cut wall art which is positioned over a metallic wall and back-lit with color-changing LEDs. This stunning design feature is the first of its kind in North Dakota.

I think great design, art, furniture and lighting really engage people in their work. It makes the day so much more pleasant. By creating this type of environment, it shows a commitment and investment in all of their team members.”
Andrew Koedam, AIA – Vice President, Architect at Wild | CRG

Comforts of Home

As part of their unique and intuitive work culture, Gate City Bank offers employees access to an array of tools and amenities to help create comfort and increase productivity. Team members have access to different types of communal spaces and meeting rooms, adjustable desks, kitchens, TVs, reverse osmosis drinking water and specialized temperature-controlled environments.

Fabrics & Furnishings 

To create a space which mimics the comforts of home, Gate City Bank chose thoughtful furnishings and fabrics with a residential feel. Collaborating with the commercial furniture manufacturer, they’ve taken office furniture to a new level with unconventional, quilted fabrics and residential-influenced patterns and designs.

Conference Rooms + Cameras

With video conferencing between all of their locations, the team has designed a specialized conference table in the shape of a wedge to accommodate the camera swing. “Video conferencing really works well for us to have an open dialogue and communication with all of our coworkers from Williston to Alexandria,” said Krabbenhoft. To absorb outside noise, they’ve once again incorporated specially engineered drapery, which has an added design effect of softening the office environment.

Designed as a smaller, video conferencing room, this space is also considered a huddle room for brainstorming sessions and a space to utilize when more privacy is required. In an open work plan like this one, Gate City Bank believes in the need to provide diverse work environments for diverse needs.

The Collaborative Work Area

On the southeast side, we found their Collaborative Work Area, a beautiful space designed with multi-faceted functionality. This is not considered the employee lounge, but space where up to 20 staff members can work or meet with others. “I liken it to a student union where you grab a beverage and snack and meet with your team members,” explained Krabbenhoft.

With a full kitchen and open pantry on site, this area provides a hot beverage station, pellet ice machine, full appliance offerings and custom-designed, laminate cabinetry with a matching, wrapped refrigerator. The team uses the kitchen for official bank functions and company gatherings like potlucks. “When you design for a commercial setting, it’s a different process,” said Koedam. “You have to make everything intuitive so that all of the appliances and features are easily recognizable and usable, even to new team members.”

In the corner of the room, Krabbenhoft took an interesting design cue from a local university by mimicking their upholstered step seating. This is part of their Collaborative Work Area which provides one more comfortable and transitional space to work, complete with a built-in tray for drinks or snacks.

Transparency in the Workplace

At Gate City Bank, the majority of their offices are equitable in style and size with only a handful of them designed to be larger spaces. Almost all offices are enclosed in glass to help integrate a more transparent management style.

Taking Comfort in the Details

When it comes to more private areas like the restrooms, doors were made discreet with a continuation of the hand-painted, metal wall covering. Inside, their signature style continues with a flat-screen TV, dual vanities and ample art.

As part of their intuitive design, four coat closets on this floor are left open with TVs overhead – a simple way to encourage team members to store their coats during the work day, versus keeping them at their desks.

Walk at Work

One of the newest additions to the office is their treadmill workstation, specially designed for an office setting. Here, team members can find a change of pace while catching up on their emails. Gate City Bank regularly experiments with out-of-the-box ideas like this one that might bring a new element to their company culture.

White Noise

Bringing more life to a corporate setting, flat screen TVs are accessed throughout the office and in all 36 locations. “Everyone’s accustomed to TVs in the background now, so we usually have it on HGTV or Food Network, unless there is something going on like the Olympics or a local sports game,” said Krabbenhoft. “On this floor alone, we have nine TVs set on a low or muted volume and people seem to really like it. It really does not interfere with their work, it just adds some color and movement to the background.”

Staying Connected

Here, the atrium is not just a stunning feature with a view overlooking the first floor, it provides a necessary connection between the two floors and helps disperse natural light from the upper floor windows.

Conscious & Confidential 

Primarily considered a paperless office, each of the workstations features three screens to help eliminate excessive printing. With an effort to promote cleaner, greener communities, this floor has only two shared printers. This helps keep printing to a minimum and also aids with the confidentiality of their customer’s information.

Protecting customer information and employees is of utmost importance, so all entrances to this floor are private with security locks, motion detection cameras and check-ins by visitors are required.

In the works!

Utilizing every floor of their 1956 Downtown Fargo skyrise, Gate City Bank is not finished renovating. Currently, in progress is the lower level’s Innovation Center, scheduled to be complete by Christmas – this space will consist of a kitchen and six meeting rooms with two of those rooms expanding to create one large meeting room that will seat over 50 people.


Find the Finishes:

Architect – Andrew Koedam, Wild | CRG
Interior Designer – Karen Bye, Accomplished Design

Workstation furniture and treadmill – Business Essentials

Glass office enclosures – Fargo Glass & Paint

Lighting – Underbrush Gallery, SCHEELS Home & Hardware

Cabinetry – Fargo Cabinets

Countertops – Granites Unlimited

Tilework – McArthur Tile Co.

Painting – Morris Painting & Decorating

Construction Vendors:

Dakota Fence, Custom Aire, ETS, Precision Concrete Cutters, Inc., Mid America Steel, Inc., Red River Fabricating, Inc., Ledgestone, Inc., Waters Construction, G&M Lathing Contractors, Inc., Sig Olson & Sons Plastering, Inc., Flament-Ulman, Inc., Lunseth, JDP Electric, Inc, Miller Insulation, Fabricators, ISED, Fegley Services, MBN Engineering, Solien & Larson Engineering, Nova Fire Protection, Toshiba Business Solutions, City of Fargo

For more information, contact:
Gate City Bank
Amy Durbin, Vice President of Marketing & Business Intelligence
701.293.2497Gate City Bank
Jay Krabbenhoft, Senior Vice President of Administration
500 Second Avenue North, Fargo


Wild | CRG
Andrew Koedam, AIA – Vice President, Architect
500 Second Avenue North, Suite 514, Fargo
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The Pines: Weddings & Events [Q&A with founders, Grain Designs]

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by M. Schleif Photography, renderings by Grain Designs, Transparent venue image by Exposure Creative Group This September’s bound to be an epic month for the…

Words by Tracy Nicholson

Photography by M. Schleif Photography, renderings by Grain Designs, Transparent venue image by Exposure Creative Group

This September’s bound to be an epic month for the guys of Grain Designs (this is their version of a pre-celebration…). Not only is it their milestone, five-year anniversary, it’s also the month they plan to launch their newest, and possibly biggest, venture to date. We’ve loved watching their business grow – first adding a shop in the country, a studio in South Fargo and a new storefront in the Shoppes at BLU Water Creek, but we’re willing to bet the farm that everyone will be falling in love with their latest project. They recently acquired 17 acres of land surrounding their rural Davenport shop – this included the property’s existing home, pool, shops and grain silos. To fully utilize the land, Grain Designs decided to marry their woodworking talents and share the country plot they’d come to love. Midwest Nest is proud to unveil the future plans for the new Grain Designs destination, The Pines: Weddings & Events!

With “The Pines” plans firmly in place and scheduled for their first wedding in the fall, the guys of Grains Designs gave us a quick tour of the grassy plot where the new venue is set to be built. Working with Rhet Architecture and Taylor Belk of Epic Homes, the team has designed an impressive venue with equally impressive amenities and country views. Whether you’re recently engaged or part of a corporate team in need of a break from the city, this will be an event destination offering an experience unlike all others.

With an ambitious vision and a hard opening date set for September, their first wedding is already in the books for team member Pat Bresnahan and his fiance, Nicolette Berge. The venue will be fully-functioning and the house will be renovated with a bridal party suite, bride and groom master suite and much more. Guests who book a wedding or event here will get full run of the farm, including the property’s guest house and in-ground pool.

In the Works…Silo Suites

Once the venue and house are completed, Grain Designs will move onto phase two, repurposing the grain silos into hotel rooms and suites for guests who want the full-on farm experience.

To find out more about the venue’s future plans, we took a tour around the farm with Grain Design’s team members, Grant Koenig, Blain Mikkonen, Phil Bruckbauer and Pat Bresnahan.

Exposure Creative Group

 Q&A with Grain Designs: The Pines

1. Where is The Pines located?

Grant – Technically, our address is Davenport, but we are just five miles west of Horace and about 10 miles southwest of Fargo.

2. Why did you decide to build a wedding venue and event center?

Grant – When the property became available we realized it was too much for us to take on just as Grain Designs, however, we didn’t want to leave. We loved being out here and the experience that it’s provided for us and we decided that we wanted to share that with other people. There are endless opportunities for what we can do with this property.

Blain – This property allows us to do what we love on a whole new level. We get to create a really interesting gathering space and experience that I think people are going to appreciate and want to be part of.

3. When do you plan to get started and who is managing the construction?

Blain – We will break ground this week and our goal for concrete is early June. We are working with Taylor Belk of Epic Homes to complete the new building. We’re also working with Rhet Fiskness of Rhet Architecture – he executed the construction documents for the official, stamped drawings. Then Grant and I created the 3-D model based on Rhet’s floor plan and completed the renderings. We were originally planning on using the existing building on the property for the event center, but structurally it just wasn’t feasible. Instead, we decided to build new on the open grass site to the east of our Grain Designs shop.

4. What will you be offering guests at the new venue?

Grant – The building is designed to be almost 9,000 square-feet and will accommodate 350 plus for a seated dinner. The design inside will be a very clean and classic white with black detailing and rustic, reclaimed wood elements. Within the venue, we will have a prep kitchen for the caterers, full bar set-up, outdoor patio and private men and women’s restrooms. We will also be building all of the farmhouse tables for the venue in addition to sliding barn doors, the bar and various features throughout the space.

Phil – We will have capabilities to accommodate outdoor ceremonies, with the space to move indoors in inclement weather. When you rent the property for the weekend, the house and pool will be offered as part of the package. We are also looking into different transportation options and hotel partnerships so that we can provide safe travels and additional lodging for large events.

Blain – Right now, we are actively exploring partnerships with various vendors such as Chef’s Table Catering for food service and The White House Co. for event staging. The Pines will have its own liquor license and there will be at least one or two mobile bars on the property and hosted bar options. We are not limiting the venue to weddings, we can also accommodate corporate events using the indoor and outdoor spaces. It will be a really multi-functional building.

5. When will The Pines be ready and how do we book an event?

Grant – The venue will be ready by mid-September. We will do pre-booking as of June 1st for winter events as well as spring and summer 2019 weddings. Right now, the best way to inquire about using The Pines for your future event is to use the “CONTACT” link on our website: ThePinesVenue.com. We want people to be able to use any or all of the property, so we encourage people to ask about any type of scenario from booking just the lawn or pool area, to the entire venue.

6. What will the existing house offer to your venue guests?

Grant – The house has an in-ground pool, patio, full kitchen, formal living room and will soon have a game room and four bedrooms with three baths. We are in the process of renovating each of the rooms to eventually sleep a total of eight to 10 guests. The house will primarily serve as the bridal suite to help you prepare for your big day, but is also available to rent for overnight stays as part of the full weekend experience.

7. What kind of renovations will you be doing on the house? 

Grant – We’ll be taking two rooms upstairs, combining them and adding french doors to create a bridal suite where the bridal party can get ready together. We will also be designing a larger master suite for the bride and groom. The kitchen was updated by the previous owner about four-years ago, so that will be one space that won’t need many renovations. The house is in great shape, so most of what we are doing is just cosmetic upgrades. Of course, we’ll have as much Grain Designs furniture in the house as possible.

Phil – On the exterior, we will be repainting, then updating the deck, pool and patios. Pat and his fiance, Nicolette, are currently living in the home and will be working on the renovations throughout the summer, so the main areas are planned to be completed by fall.

Pat – In the family room, we will be updating the flooring and trim, then painting the brick and designing our own reclaimed wood mantle. In the basement, we will be doing a hang-out area and game room for the groomsmen. We’re planning to put a ping-pong table, couches and TV down there as well.

8. What types of packages will The Pines offer?

Blain – There will be a few different packages; you can rent the property for the day or book the whole weekend experience with the house and pool. With the weekend wedding package, people will be able to host the groom’s dinner on Friday, ceremony on Saturday, then the gift opening and brunch on Sunday.

9. How did you come across this property in the country? 

Grant – Almost three years ago, we built a couple of pieces for a client in the lakes area and her friend was the owner of the farm at the time. She was there during this install and she happened to be my fourth-grade teacher. After the passing of her husband, she told us that she no longer had a use for the property’s shops. She mentioned that if we ever needed a place to work we should get in touch with her. Phil was also friends with her daughter from Shanley High School, so he was familiar with the land.

10. Will you be keeping your 52nd Avenue Studio open as well? 

Blain – Yes, we still have the South Fargo studio and our new store in Shoppes at BLU Water Creek is opening this month next to Eco Chic Home’s new storefront. The 52nd Avenue Studio will be a “behind the scenes” location serving as overflow storage for the new store.


Follow their Progress!

As Grain Designs completes the build and puts the finishing touches on The Pines, Midwest Nest will be following along to give our readers exclusive sneak peeks leading up to the final unveiling. Get ready as we reveal the before and afters and offer readers a glimpse inside their first wedding, this fall!

For more information, contact: 

Grain Designs





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