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Cotten keeps it local with area gift shop

Judy Cotten has been running Judy's House of Gifts for the past 26 years, and enjoys the continuous change her job brings.

Judy's House of Gifts has been a staple of Crosslake for the past 26 years, thanks to the efforts of store owner Judy Cotten.

Cotten, a native of Alpena, Michigan, moved to St. Louis Park, Minnesota, as a young adult, and moved to Crosslake with her husband, Jim, in 1969.

After almost 20 years of raising her daughters, Donna and Nancy, and assisting her husband with his work as a general contractor, Cotten decided it was time for a change.

"After my kids were out of high school, I was bored," Cotten said. "I used to run a craft sale in my house for about 10 years, and it just evolved from there."

With the help of her husband, Judy's House of Gifts was created in 1988 with the hope of providing Crosslake residents a place to shop that is closer to home.

"I was tired of running to Brainerd all the time, especially in the wintertime," Cotten said. "If you needed a birthday gift or a wedding gift, you had to go to Brainerd. I did enough of that for my husband, and I thought people could use that," she said.

While she admits owning a gift shop is not something she has always wanted to do, Cotten grew up around the retail industry and loves hobbies - like cooking and knitting - that require equipment that can be purchased at her shop.

Cotten still finds her job as interesting as she did when she started. While she loves the items in her inventory, her customers are what keep her invested in what she does.

"I love the people," Cotten said. "It's different all the time. One hour is different than the next. It keeps me interested. Yesterday a customer that I had tried to order something for brought me fresh blueberries. People appreciate us and we appreciate them, so it works out nicely."

While there are things she would like to change, Cotten believes any changes that may come - like many of the changes that have occurred since the store opened - will evolve organically if it is meant to be. Nevertheless, she is pleased with the store she has set up.

"We offer a good selection of gifts and clothing," Cotten said. "I think any store that can help keep people in your community is good. The drug store is really good for that, and we hope to fill that same niche so people don't have to run to Brainerd every time they need something."

Ultimately, Cotten continues to run her shop because it lets her do what she likes best: help others.

"It lets me please people," she said. "It lets me get to know my neighbor, as well as the people who are just up for the summer. You like to keep people happy. You will always get that one customer, but the next nice one that comes in will always outweigh that."

Dan Determan
Staff Writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper