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transforming vision to reality

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Sometimes writing about a vision helps it along on its path to material existence.  Today I am putting my vision for a retail space in New Rockford, North Dakota in words. Part of my effort is to help give me a jump start on the process of writing a business plan to take to the bank. But also, my effort is an attempt to elicit feedback. So, I need your help. Share this blog with and folks you might know in North Dakota and encourage them to share their thoughts with me. The good or the bad. It is time to get this fantasy a little closer to reality.

I live in a small town of about 1,500 people in North Dakota. We are about two hours from any “major” cities. I have lived here for just over two years and have appreciated the openness in which we’ve been greeted and welcomed to the community. The summers are radiant here. Warm, but rarely HOT. My plants flourish in the garden from May to September. We use the tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and green beans to make a variety of pickles and preserves. I have been introduced as the “lady with the big garden.” We also have several chickens. They just started laying eggs. So, we are also known as “the people with chickens.” Those titles are just fine with me. But, I am also a woman with a vision.

I am glad to say that home has become where the heart is. In the past several months I have taken some time to heal this heart. After tragic loss, physical pain, and emotional turmoil, my heart definitely needed the rest. Finally, I am beginning to feel nourished and whole. I feel that I am able to share myself with others in a unique and genuine way.

I envision an eclectic shop, a inviting space that encourages creativity, solace, and inspiration. This place is clean and spirited, refreshing and true. A variety of nonfiction books, specializing in natural sciences, arts, and hobbies line the walls.

UntitledThese are resources to enrich the daily experiences of individuals. Individuals who would like to know how to identify birds, animal tracks, insects, or plants. Curious folks who would like to explore or improve their skills in writing, journaling, drawing, painting, knitting, scrapbooking, sculpture, and the like. I imagine people selecting books to reconnect with pieces of themselves they had put on hold years ago. Who doesn’t have a long lost hobby that is just waiting to be revived? Fly-tying anyone?

Books are just one aspect of the shop— the ones that line the walls. To continue the theme of creative inspiration, the storefront would feature art and craft supplies. Many of the artists and crafters I know in the area specialize in beading, jewelry making, knitting, crocheted, quilting, or scrapbooking. To me, drawing and painting are inextricable parts of my well being. I expect many artists feel the same about their talent. Unfortunately, I find it difficult to keep inspiration going when there aren’t many places for me to stop in and get supplies, books, advice, inspiration, or finished products. I either order my supplies online, make d0 with what I have, or wait until I make the drive to Bismarck, Fargo, or Grand Forks. I imagine others must face the same predicament.welcome

The shop I envision would solve this creative dilemma. I envision an open space with a long centerpiece displaying beads, cordage, clasps, and jewelry making accessories.  I find inspiration for this design from Von’s Shop in West Lafayette, Indiana.

This space in Von's Shop in West Lafayette, Indiana was the site of a creative epiphany. Photo by Pamela Sari.

This space in Von’s Shop in West Lafayette, Indiana was the site of a creative epiphany. Photo by Pamela Sari.

Earlier this year, a best friend and I spent hours finding peace by amid tiny pieces of beauty.  Building a piece of display furniture similar to this seems like an honorable way to utilize the load of walnut lumber I inherited from my grandfather. The beads and jewelry supplies would be of high quality and reflect the nature theme in the shop. But would offer enough variety for a diversity of tastes in creativity.



The high quality of supplies would be a characteristic found in yard, fabric, paper, and other supplies, making an effort whenever possible to purchase materials from local or handcrafted sources.

Handspun yarn from Lollyarn.

Handspun yarn from Lollyarn.

Areas of the shop would be dedicated to fiber arts. Others to scrapbooking. Blank journals and sketchbooks, along with pencils, charcoal, conte, and watercolor would be featured in another section for fine arts. General supplies such as scissors, fixatives, glues, and adhesives would be available as well.



The third segment of inventory for the shop would include finished hand-made items that would be of interest to the shop’s clientele. Last week I wrote about my impressions of the Pride of Dakota Holiday Showcase and how amazed I was at the talent that goes into wonderfully handcrafted items.

I find it an amazing opportunity to feature the work of artisans throughout the state. There are talented hands at work, crafting beautiful gift items as we speak. I have been able to find many of them through Etsy, an online selling site for artistans.

The folks at Bear Creek Design, of Fort Ransom, create unique, detailed needle felted art.  To me, nothing quite says North Dakota art like needle felted waterfowl. Seeing that Ruddy Ducks are one my favorite aquatic quackers, with their blue bill and all, I couldn’t help but fall in love with this sculpture.

Upcycled wallhangings have an impressive floral quality about them.

Upcycled wallhangings have an impressive floral quality about them.

Another North Dakotan artist, Bobbie creates beautiful upcycled wall-art from vintage books. I find them absolutely stunning and think they would have a perfect place in the bookstore and craft shop I envision.


Making this metal daisy necklace takes a certain skill and specialized tools. The artist at Stellar Fusion does great work.

Unique finished jewelry items would be a must for the shop’s inventory. Even the most talented jewelry makers like to wear something made by someone else.

This hand stitched felt squirrel melts by Hill Critters just melts my heart with cuteness.

This hand stitched felt squirrel melts by Hill Critters just melts my heart with cuteness.

The Fargo artist at Hill Critters has a wonderful way of imbuing a sense of play into her unique woodland creatures. This slightly albino squirrel may have stolen my heart.

Nature inspired gift items, vintage or handmade would certainly have a place in my vision.

Nature inspired gift items, vintage or handmade would certainly have a place in my vision

The owner of Its Still Life in Bismarck, restores and enhances vintage housewares, toys, tools, glassware, and paper from the Northern Plains. She says, “anything that can be saved, cleaned, upcycled and treasured.” Many of her items would be of interest to folks who love sketching still life. But some items, such as this coaster set and tray would make lovely gift items.

There is so much talk these days about shopping locally, but sadly sometimes that means buying imported goods at local shops. Why not buy locally produced goods at locally owned storefronts? The artists are there and the market is there, they just need to be put together in a dynamic setting. That’s what I hope Pages of Paradigm to be. A place for being, inspired.

So there it is… my vision, my dream. To open and run a retail space that features books, craft supplies, and handcrafted gift items. I want to hear what others have to say. Do you think it’s a good idea? Would you shop there? Would you have items you would want to consign for sale there? Or is it just a place that me and my imaginary friends would hang out at all day?


About Rachel

Rachel is an independent artist and writer who thrives on sharing her deep appreciation for the natural world. She has taught college courses in wildlife identification, ethnobotany, environmental science, natural resource management, and cultural studies. She lives in North Dakota with her two boys, husband, dog, and cats. She enjoys gardening, cooking, drawing, writing, hunting, hiking, and snowshoeing, but is usually too tired to do any of these, except for writing...

12 responses »

  1. so now hearing what you plan, as a business person who thinks rationally and not always with my heart as I would like to – I would say, have you polled/surveyed, or otherwise spent time with others who have had similar visions and either failed or succeeded? Several come to mind quickly – Lisa Faleide in Maddock, the new folks in Maddock with the Fun House, Amy Jo and David Paukert at Heritage Arts in Michigan, ND, ooo, there was (is?) a place in Bottineau – coffee shop/artist hang out – can’t think of the name now…and I’m sure there are many more. I would specifically choose those in small rural locations as they face challenges that are not the same as those in urban centers and I would ask fairly specific questions – or ask if you can follow up with a phone call. I always like to know what I’m up against so I can trouble shoot before the trouble arrives – be prepared that’s my motto. Also, who else could you collaborate with – partner on activities? Could you be a satellite place for LRSC to hold continuing ed classes? Even though you wouldn’t be a quilt shop – could you get on the quilt tours that go around with bus loads of women looking to spend $$$? You’re looking at a space that sounds like you would need a large amount of inventory to keep people happy – lots of inventory sitting on shelves is expensive and if you don’t turn over that inventory quickly it can be a ball buster (sorry for the wording) – is there another way you can assist crafters with purchases without having it all in inventory, like have samples and work with the distributors to ship directly to the customers house – they make one order based on the samples you have, pay one shipping fee rather than several and get it directly to their house…something like that where you wouldn’t have to carry tons of expensive inventory but yet you could have a large selection to choose from. Just some things to get you thinking. It sounds like a place I would LOVE to go and shop but you would also have to tell me what other things there are to do while I’m in New Rockford so that I can make a day or afternoon of it – I most likely – no matter how much I wanted – wouldn’t make the 60 mile one way trip with just your store in mind…
    keep the thoughts coming, this will work itself into a wonderful adventure!

  2. Holly has some excellent ideas.
    I would shop at your store! I like the idea of having samples and then set people up with the goods and thereby keeping inventory low. Which could create an online presence as well.
    Do you know Gerri McKay? She is an excellent one to bounce ideas off of!
    As Holly said, keep the ideas coming…I love to hear of your dreams!

  3. I love your idea for your shop. It sounds lovely and a comfortable place to shop. Since I live quite a ways a way, I do not believe I would drive there to shop. I just don’t do that sort of thing, however, if I ever was in your area you can believe I would be there. Will you have an online store as well so that those of us that don’t live near could shop?
    Thanks for including the link to my coaster set.
    I am looking forward to watching your dream become a reality.

  4. Thanks for the comments folks. (I got several others on Facebook as well.) So, Holly has a long follow-up to-do list for me (what else is new?) Haha. Seriously, what a huge help to have insight of others!! Annie and Karen, an online shop. would certainly be a component of the store. I feel so immersed in the power of technology, I don’t think I could even envision a store that doesn’t have some online presence. I am so glad to have many folks hearing me out on this. What an amazing thing a blog can be!

  5. Pingback: I Was Featured – Pages of Paradigm | It's Still Life

  6. in my list of folks to talk to, I thought about another one while in bed last night (I do my best thinking then) – Novina West of Tolna, she’d be good too.

      • Yes, thank you Holy. Too bad I am seeing all this for the first time exactly a year later. And now I am in MN. My timing is awful. This something I would have loved to talk to you about Rachel. I was on a very similar path as you are envisioninf before my road veered right out of the state instead.

  7. Katherine Hamilton

    Rachel, I read a great article on starting a small business that I can’t locate, but will send you the link if I find it. Here’s what I remember:

    1. Make a list of words that describe your business. Choose the three that best fit your vision. If this is tricky, make a list of words that describe yourself and do the same – after all, a business usually resembles the person creating it. Keep those words on a sticky or in sight when developing a business plan and mission statement.

    2. Lots of people have great dreams for their business, but the dreaming can get out of control and the business end flops – remember who your client is and Taylor accordingly.

    3. Start small – try an online store (etsy?) or collaboration. Work out the kinks and remember most small businesses don’t earn money the first few years.

    4. Write a mission statement and get the feedback of ppl who would potentially work with you / shop at your store etc.

    It sounds like a lovely vission and obviously the “space” is equally important as the product you’d be selling. So your business is two-fold: items to buy, a place to find your creative muse. Why not start then with classes and limited murchendice or tea/coffee and a narrow inventory (craft supplies or tools made to order) plus books to buy or display copies to read in house. Sounds like you could teach a series on gardening or coop building…

    Talk with other small business owners and feel out their experiences.

    Good luck!! Can’t wait to read about your success

  8. I love the idea of you offering classes whether taught by you or others. That might draw people. I know I have driven a lot futher to attend a class. Once in people might buy or offer a small discount to buy then. Altough more and more people are doing classes online. But to me when classes are offered, it gives a sense that the business owners wants to “share” not just sell.

    • Oh absolutely! And being an educator, I feel like classes would certainly be worth not only teaching, but hosting so that folks with various areas of expertise could lead classes too.
      The original space I was looking at for the shop facilitated such a model. But as the dreams and possibilities grew, I felt like I had to step back and define the core of what I wanted. Then with feedback, start considering what is worth including without getting overwhelmed. Classes would be an excellent branch to include in the whole vision!

  9. Yes! Do this, and in the comments I’m so glad to hear you are already thinking online store, an online presence that reflects you and your beautiful vision will be so key. Don’t just build a store; let people be part of your community. Talk to Bison Booties, talk to the Sunshine Shoppe, it’s so so key, especially in North Dakota w/ limited market potential. Let me know when it’s up and running! Cheers! Beth in Bismarck


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