Sometimes, we just need a little push.
There are days when an idea can seem real, and you feel so close to making the leap, but then life happens, and away it goes, back into a place where it’s just not quite there yet.
It happens a lot, unfortunately, but not this time. Not for Amy Thue.
For so long it seems, Amy has been wanting to create. But after attending an OTA event this past fall in Milbank, South Dakota, her idea of a pop-up gift shop on Main Street really started to come to life.
“Without this push, I probably would have never done this.”
During the event, attendees in the audience were asked to brainstorm ideas to help revitalize the community. One would be chosen as an OTA Builder, and the Grant County Development Corporation in Milbank would also contribute financially.
Amy’s idea of a creative, pop-up gift shop stood out, and Whimsy on Main has been open for over a month now.
“It’s been crazy!”
Well, opening a storefront on Main Street within a matter of weeks — and amid the holidays to boot! — will do that to you, but it’s been such a ride.
There’s a new shop in town!
Whimsy on Main is a combination of handmade products from regional artisans as well as a gift boutique. She was so proactive that, for their first day, they didn’t even have anything for sale — just an open door, coffee and cookies and a chance to let Milbank know they were there.
Sometimes, that’s all it takes.
In a short matter of time, they were able to bring in over 10 vendors, including candles and art pieces from Minnesota artisans.
“And they send their friends to Milbank, so that’s been great because we’ve had some of those Minnesota people who wouldn’t have otherwise shopped here!”
Amy and her sister, Sara, who co-runs Whimsy on Main, also contribute handmade stuffed owls, and their mom embroiders dish towels.
“We couldn’t even keep those in the store! We’d send her home at night to make more.”
Amy’s mom was a teacher for 42 years, and Sara is a librarian at the school, so the family is very passionate about books and was eager to bring those into the shop, too.
“We just got some of our favorite books, and it was really easy for us to sell them because we were able to say, ‘You have to read this!’ ”
For the holidays, they also brought in 30 dozen Christmas cookies for the customers.
It’s been the perfect season to do this, and even though they only intended to stay open through the end of the month, this is working. As exhausted as they are, they are also happy, fulfilled, delighted and rejuvenated.
Milbank is, too.
“I’ve been telling my sister, there is a need for something unique and different here,” Amy says. “Milbank is a big enough community — and there are enough little communities surrounding it — that I feel this can be supported.
“You always hear, ‘Shop Local,’ but you can’t do that if there is nothing to shop for. I think people want to stay in town, they really do, but we have to give them a reason to stay in town.”
A locally grown, handmade gift shop is a great start — a reason to keep walking down Main.
“I really just want to ask people, ‘What do you need? What are you trying to find here that you can’t find?’ ”
There’s way too much momentum here for Whimsy on Main to go away, and Sara and Amy are confident the shop will only grow with time.
“We’re going to keep our doors open and figure out what the need is here — trying to find our niche so we can survive,” Amy says. “I told my sister she could sleep in February, but now, we have every intention of staying open past our January end date.”
Like most things in life, having an incredibly supportive family has fueled Amy even further. It’s as if they were the push she needed, too.
“Usually, I have these big dreams and I’m telling them to my family, and everyone is kind of shaking their heads. But this time, they all got on board!”
Her 10-year-old daughter is even taking the reigns.
“She just sits behind the cash register and tells us how she thinks things need to be done. She actually created a little piece of art and wanted to put a price on it, and it sold. Now she’s in! We’re making her a little entrepreneur.”
Amy’s husband has helped tremendously with the financial aspect of running a business, and it’s been a huge help for her so she can keep her focus on the merchandise.
“We’re so lucky my husband is in the financial world,” Amy says. “He’s really keeping us in line and asking us the right questions and paying the people who need to be paid. He has taken that piece and done it for us.”
As for her two other daughters, this has been an opportunity to show them what’s possible.
“We’ve always been a really creative family. I was a stay-at-home mom for seven years, and during that time, we spent a lot of time painting and writing and doing all of those kinds of things, so they’ve always had that piece. But now to see Mom actually take all of that and make a living of it?
“It’s so important for them to see that you can have big dreams — and they don’t just have to be dreams.”
Amy loves watching her sister grow during this adventure, too.
“Sara has always said, ‘I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up,’ and she’s 42! She’s been a mom, and that’s been a huge part of her life. But her youngest son graduates from high school this year, so it’s kind of like she’s trying to figure out her next season.
“It’s fun for me to watch her focus on herself a little bit.”
It’s serendipitous really, how much change this has brought, in such a fast amount of time — to Amy, to her family, to Milbank.
All because of a little nudge, a glimmering enough light for Amy to see: Oh, perhaps this is possible.
Perhaps I can do this for me.
“For years, I’ve talked with my husband about doing something like this,” she says. “I keep telling him, I just want to wake up in the morning and make pretty things!”
And so she did.