On Friday, June 19, a new store on Barclay Avenue in Pine River will welcome visitors to experience a little bit of everything.
That's because the store space is jam-packed with an aquarium store, a reptile store/future exhibit, a consignment store and community education space.
Riptide Aquatics is the name of the aquarium store portion of the building, toward the back. The space is owned by Cory Mink, who, along with his sister, wanted their mother to have something to do with her free time.
“My daughter wanted me to get a job,” said Monika Hamlin.
“So I bought her one,” Mink said.
The shop will be a return to a beloved career Hamlin had to leave 15 years ago because of health issues. Back then, Hamlin ran a pet store in Jenkins, called Primo Pets and Grooming, that carried just about everything, including dogs, cats, a spider the size of a dinner plate, alligators, hedgehogs and birds.
“It was like a zoo,” Hamlin said.
Mink was a regular fixture at the shop where Hamlin said he proved to be quite the salesman. They hope to start back where they left off, but mostly with fish right now.
“We're just very family oriented people,” Hamlin said. “You're dealing with families, and you're dealing with people who love fish. Fish are just as addicting as many things.”
“Fish were a very popular part of our other store,” Mink said. “A lot of things people would comment on with our store compared to bigger stores was how much healthier the fish are. We keep the tanks extremely clean.”
The store sells both fish and supplies for marine and tropical fish, as well as a wide variety of African cichlids. They also do special orders for both fish and aquarium supplies.
“We pretty much go all the way down the rabbit hole,” Mink said. "We have done a few complete starter set orders. We can set up custom orders.”
Their hope is to be known for the quality and health of their fish.
Creepy Crawly Critter Show
The Creepy Crawly Critter Show is the name they gave to their reptile store and exhibit.
Right now the show is not on the road, but they hope to eventually ramp up.
“We were going to do it at first but there are too many irons in the fire,” Hamlin said.
They will sell reptiles, as well as supplies, but the ultimate goal is to exhibit them too. That would entail a small entrance fee to a section of the store, like a zoo, where reptiles would eventually be on display in various artificial habitats. In the old store, Hamlin used reptile exhibits like this for themed birthday parties, and she'd like to do so again.
If things go well, the creepy crawlies will include more than just reptiles.
“If I have it my way, there will be a whole separate spider exhibit,” Mink said.
Song of the Soul Art Gallery
As visitors first enter, they will be greeted by art hanging on the walls. That's because the front half of the building will be half educational space and half art gallery complete with local consigned art.
“Anything that is homemade that will fit in the store of a reasonable size, which is local,” Hamlin said. “We don't want people out of the state or area.”
The front section will be managed part by Hamlin and part by Sandra Linn, Hamlin's co-manager and one of the shop's instructors. Linn is no stranger to art projects.
“I'm a 4-H leader,” Linn said. “So obviously I've helped kids make all kinds of stuff.”
The gallery includes some classroom activities for artistic children. Part of the store is dedicated to art specifically made by children.
“We're also trying to teach kids some entrepreneurial skills,” Hamlin said.
Linn also consults on natural health foods and home cleaning products, which are on display toward the front of the store.
Family Experiential Educational Workshops
The final leg of the business will be the educational workshops. The store will likely host workshops every day for a variety of skills from art skills to healthy living tips and self-reliance skills taught by Hamlin, Linn and Dawn Kennedy from the local school.
“There are a lot of people who would like to learn food preservation, so we'll do that kind of teaching,” Hamlin said.
Before the COVID-19 shutdowns, the classroom space was already in action.
“Before we were shut down we were doing some classes,” Linn said. “We did macrame classes with pot holders and we'll do some wall hanging ones.”
Once again, many of the classes will be family oriented.
“We're trying to focus a lot on children's stuff because we're trying to get them away from their electronics,” Hamlin said.
“What I liked about the idea is they want and encourage the parents to be there, participate and join in,” Mink said. “That's something that doesn't happen enough - actual quality time with kids.”
Classes will be listed on the company Facebook page, possibly future Pine River-Backus Community Education brochures and flyers on the front of the building.
The classroom space will also be open for rent for those who would like to hold their own classes, and Hamlin has said she will donate use of the space to 4-H groups as well.
The grand opening
Hamlin has scheduled the grand opening for Friday, June 19, and the day is expected to be as busy as the store's business model.
There will be crafts, healthy living classroom introductions, refreshments, facials and a couple contests, including a coloring contest with $5 gift cards and a reptile contest.
“Anyone 18 years of age or younger, if they come in there will be a sheet with a map,” Hamlin said. “They fill out the sheet and go to the map and point out where the reptile comes from. If they are right they will go into a drawing for a $10 gift certificate for someplace in the store.”
Hamlin said a local author plans to make an appearance.
There will be class signup sheets and an opportunity for their would-be customers to tell them what they want from the store.
“I would really like for customers to give more feedback on what their wants and needs are,” Hamlin said. “I would like to supply them with what they want.”
Hamlin plans to have the store open Tuesdays through Saturdays, with most of the hours being based after most people are done with work, though feedback at the open house will help her to decide exactly when operating hours should be.
Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or email@example.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.