In September, a historic Nisswa business, The Totem Pole, closed for the winter and gained new ownership under Luke Waln, who owns Nisswa Smiles, and partner Mickyla Constance. After COVID-19 delayed a possibly lucrative spring opening, the doors finally reopened June 18.
“We were hoping to be open right away in early April,” Constance said. “We renovated as a labor of love all winter. Then everything happened this spring. Because we were brand new and inviting local vendors to come in, we needed to delay until we really understood what opening would be like and what kind of a commitment we could make to vendors that wanted to partner with us. It was just a big delay, but we're super excited to be open.”
Some things have changed with the business, while others have not.
“We're keeping the name and the totem pole (in front of the business),” Waln said. “And we're keeping some of the things The Totem Pole is known for, like the horse and train (rides) out there, the medicine man and the penny press. All those things that the Nisswa Totem Pole was known for. There are many generations who have pictures with the horse and stuff like that. The horse has been there since 1947.”
“I wanted to honor the history,” Constance said.
The products in the store have changed from a gift shop to a boutique.
“We are a boutique marketplace where we invite local artisans to share the space,” Constance said. “They rent the space and share their talents with us. Everyone's local. Many are from Nisswa, Lake Shore, Pequot Lakes and Brainerd. Most things in the store are hand crafted.”
Among those items are repurposed furniture, woodworking products, wood turned bowls, cutting boards, candles, jewelry and more.
Constance had a difficult time naming any single item that the store has specialized in, or which has been most popular. Many of the items are one-of-a-kind handmade projects, so once they are gone, they are gone.
“I think our biggest complaint is when it disappears the next day,” Constance said. “When someone has been thinking about (an item) and came back the next day and that unique piece is not here anymore.”
Not all items are unique, however, and many can be reordered from the store's vendors.
“My favorite thing about the store, personally, is that almost daily the inventory is changing,” Constance said. “We move in new pieces every morning or every evening before and after we close. Sometimes throughout the day new pieces arrive. It's just ever changing.”
Right now the store is a mostly family affair with Constance, Waln and family members doing most of the work with just one paid employee. Optimally sometime down the road they would like to have two or three employees outside of the family.
The store is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. The store still has space for a couple vendors, though space is limited and filling up.
Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.