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Angie Wieck, Published April 26 2012

Boerth’s changes hands

FARGO – Doug Scraper coined a slogan several years ago for his business: “Discover your art and soul at Boerth’s Gallery.”

That motto seems to fit perfectly with the vision of Michael Rohr, who became the new owner of the downtown Fargo business on April 1.

Scraper and his wife, Kathy, have owned the business at 212 Broadway since 1988 when they bought it from the Walter Boerth family. Scraper had recently retired as the B-52 bomber squadron commander at Minot Air Force Base and was looking for a new opportunity.

Many people thought Scraper was crazy for buying a gallery downtown at a time when businesses were migrating to the West Acres mall on the outskirts of Fargo.

When Scraper bought the gallery, it consisted mainly of wildlife art and duck stamps, but he worked hard to furnish Boerth’s with pieces that are normally seen in New York and San Francisco galleries. He was determined to turn Boerth’s into a world-class gallery.

Scraper credits much of his success to Kathy. He describes her as his “go-to counsel” throughout their 41 years of marriage.

“Over the years, I think we’ve developed a reputation that I’m proud to turn over to Michael,” Scraper said. “I watch his energy and his enthusiasm and his ideas, and it’s a total reflection of where I was 23 years ago.”

He described the gallery as his baby, “and you don’t want to turn it over to someone only interested in what the books look like, because it’s a lot more than just books. It’s about your passion for the business.”

Rohr knows a thing or two about being passionate. He calls himself a “modern-day pioneer” because he came to the United States from Switzerland in 2000 with just two suitcases to his name and the hope of discovering the American dream.

Before moving to the U.S., Rohr managed the visual design team for one of the biggest department stores in downtown Zurich. It was there that he strengthened his design skills while also learning the commercial side of the business and how to make something look exciting to the consumer.

When he arrived in Fargo, Rohr took a job with Slumberland in sales before becoming a corporate trainer for the company.

Rohr can indirectly thank his best friend, Dan Hendrick, for the opportunity to buy Boerth’s.

Rohr was thinking about returning to Switzerland when Hendrick hosted a dinner party. Hendrick invited his future wife, Shannon Scraper, her friend Heidi Iverson and Rohr. Scraper just happens to be Doug and Kathy’s daughter.

Rohr fell in love with Heidi, and she helped him fall further in love with Fargo, his “little big city.”

“I couldn’t help but find irony in the fact that a Swiss guy found his Heidi in Fargo,” Rohr joked.

Doug Scraper began considering retirement last winter. At the same time, Rohr was looking for work that would require less travel so he could spend more time at home with his family.

Shannon planted the bug in Heidi’s ear that Rohr buy Boerth’s from her dad. And he did.

Rohr is a firm believer that “your home is your castle.” He sees Boerth’s as a platform from which he can teach people how they can help their home tell their story.

Boerth’s will continue to offer design services, but Rohr hopes to teach people how to select and frame their own pieces.

“I always want to make sure that when I design with a customer that I force them to take the reins,” he said. “I really want them to see they can do it. If they want me to do it, I sure can, but whose home is it then?”

Rohr plans to expand Boerth’s merchandise. He will sell some tables and accent chairs, lamps and home décor, all of which he considers art.

Rohr has also been talking to area banks about setting up financing for customers similar to what furniture stores offer. He wants to be able to provide everyone with an opportunity to own great art.

And he dreams of using the gallery’s basement to create a design studio, which he would love to open to area designers.

“I’m a firm believer that design is not created single-handedly. With a group of great minds, anything is possible.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501

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