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Anna G. Larson, Published September 21 2012

Creative, collaborative local retail

Pelican Rapids, Minn. - Judy Tabbut remembers the first time she and five other Pelican Rapids residents thought, “Maybe we can do that.”

“We wanted to create a creative local retail environment,” Tabbut said.

The six-person group was inspired after attending an economic development presentation about entrepreneurship.

By June 2011, “maybe” turned into the Mercantile on Main at 29 N. Broadway.

“We thought mercantile worked because there’s something for everybody,” Tabbut said.

Handmade jewelry and quilts, crafts, Asian food, artwork and art supplies, antiques, repurposed furniture and much more fill the 1,650-square-foot store space.

With 21 memberships and 26 mostly female members – multiple people can be on a membership, such as a husband and wife – the organization has more than quadrupled in size.

“There’s great cooperation among everyone,” said Kathy Bergren, one of the founding members of the Mercantile on Main.

Each member or membership team can sell their goods in the store, and each person volunteers to watch the store during its operating hours, Tabbut said.

The oldest member is 92 years old and crafts wooden walking sticks. Tabbut estimated the youngest member is 40 years old.

“It’s a lot of retirees who just wanted to give back to the community,” she said.

Since opening, the store has blossomed into a popular tourist stop, Bergren said.

“The tourists and local customers have been so good to us,” she said. “We had no idea how long we’d be open – we had no idea how it would go.”

Both women said the local community has supported the group from the beginning – the city even helped them buy their current store front.

“We’re in a place now where we won’t have to move again,” she said. “We’re going to be around for a while.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Anna G. Larson at (701) 241-5525