by David Hill
Every dream begins with a dreamer.
In this case, opening of the old Bostwick’s building in downtown Thief River Falls began with two dreamers – Jill Stenberg and Trell Kulju.
Kulju, pronounced kool•you, said she always dreamed of a store that would help support the Pennington County Humane Society, maybe even help it become self-sustaining.
Stenberg bought the old Bostwick’s building at Third Street and LaBree Avenue out of sentiment and a determination not to see another empty building in downtown Thief River Falls.
Kulju said she’s been accused of being a hoarder, but she’s been collecting items for a good reason – helping the Pennington County Humane Society to which she’s been a member since it started in 1997. In fact, she’s the last member of the original board still serving on the board. She explained that it costs about $10,000 a month to operate the Humane Society so it is a constant fundraising challenge. Kulju said the public has been wonderful, but she has always dreamed of a thrift store that would help support the Humane Society.
Stenberg said she remembers enjoyable shopping trips to Bostwick’s when she was younger. She said her dream was to just bring it back, give the community a nice place to visit where they could find good, reasonably priced items.
“I think business enhances business,” said Stenberg. She added that she has always been interested only in working cooperatively with other stores to benefit the community.
When Kulju shared her dream, Stenberg shared her dream and they decided they needed to make it happen. No, that’s not quite right. They decided they could make their dreams happen.
Today, Old Bostwicks is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. It is not a consignment store, and isn’t really a thrift store, either. It carries clothing, furniture and gift items. It’s a combination of a gift store and department store, in a nice and pleasing atmosphere.
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Many of the items sold at Old Bostwicks are brand new, but many are used items donated to the Humane Society. These items have purple tags on them and all profits from the sale of these items benefit the Humane Society.
As the popular quote states, “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic, it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” That’s true of this dream.
The Humane Society doesn’t pay rent or overhead. But, as part of their arrangement, volunteers from the Humane Society man the store. Stenberg is there most of the time, but it is one of her three jobs.
The store and cooperative arrangement have been in place for about a year now, and things are going well enough that their dreams are beginning to get bigger, too.
Stenberg said it’s never been about profit. She said operating the Bostwick’s store has been something she wanted. Her intent was never to make money. She said she enjoys people and just wants people to come in a visit.
She said she wants to start focusing on the space upstairs, make repairs and eventually offer some classes.
Kulju said the Humane Society isn’t totally self-sustaining. They receive a stipend from the city, but private donations pay for the food and care of pets in their care. She said she’d like to see the Bostwick’s building expand even more, and of course, become even more successful and not fade away.
Kulju recently added her own homemade products under the label of Bella’s Babies.
Bella is the name of her dog, which she adopted from the Humane Society. Kulju explained she got involved in making her own laundry soap, floor cleaner and other products some time ago, and had fun doing it. Today, her list of products also include fabric softener, shower cleaner, dishwasher soap, all natural wood cleaner, and for dogs – dog shampoo, paw protectors, deodorizers, and mosquito and tick repellent. It’s all sold exclusively at Old Bostwicks and all profits go to support the Humane Society.
Kulju and Stenberg have a positive attitude about the store and would like to share that attitude with everyone who comes into the store.
Having that positive attitude is certain to guarantee it continues to enjoy a successful future.