by Cori Hilsgen
With 60 degree temperatures on a sunny day, Sept. 12 was a beautiful day for strolling downtown St. Joseph and there was lots of foot traffic stopping for the grand opening of Babygirlz Boutique, located in the former Retail Therapy location.
Morning strollers included three teacher friends who were training for the Sunday, Oct. 4 Twin Cities 10-mile run. After finishing a 7-mile run, the three friends stopped at the Local Blend and headed to Babygirlz to check out the new boutique in town.
Renee Nelson from Rice, Katie Radeke from Sartell and Jill Seiler from Albany said they love shopping locally.
Seiler, who works in Little Falls, said her husband, Will Seiler, owns the Albany Apothecary, and they like to support other small-business owners.
“We like clothes and especially like to shop at local boutiques,” Seiler said.
Radeke and Nelson both work in Albany. Radeke found a blue-and-black hoodie she liked and Nelson was busy trying on shoes and a scarf.
“It’s a very nice boutique with unique jewelry,” Radeke said. “It’s a fun treat to run, have coffee and shop with friends on such a gorgeous day.”
Nelson modeled a scarf for her friends and discussed options to wear it.
In a Newsleader interview, she said as a resident of Rice, she enjoys receiving and reading the Sauk Rapids-Rice Newsleader.
St. Joseph resident Gary Osberg, who is a member of the St. Joseph Economic Development Authority and also works for Minnesota Public Radio, walked over to welcome owner Melissa Kolstad to St. Joseph.
“I am very excited she is bringing her boutique to town,” Osberg said.
“We are excited to be here,” Kolstad said.
Kolstad and her manager, Karen Kuhn, were busy greeting customers, answering questions and organizing.
Kuhn, the former manager of the Retail Therapy Boutique, is a previous business owner herself. She owned the Icing Dreams bakery in Waite Park.
“I am absolutely thrilled to have her, and know she’s going to be a great asset for our company,” Kolstad said.
“This is a new adventure for me to be working with clothing,” Kuhn said. “I thought it would be fun to do something different.”
The store carries women’s apparel (including blue jeans) from extra small to 3XL sizes, footwear, accessories and other gift items.
“We are a work in progress,” Kolstad said. “Now that we are in the location we can see how much space we have to work with.”
Kolstad travels to Minneapolis about four times a year and Las Vegas once each year to find new products for her boutique.
She offers a loyalty program for boutique customers. They earn a punch for every $20 spent and earn $30 in free merchandise after they have 12 punches or spend $240.
College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University French professor Ana Conboy recently moved from Boston to St. Joseph.
“I am trying to get the lay of the land and will probably go to the Local Blend next to get a cup of coffee,” Conboy said.
Conboy who grew up in Portugal, said she moved here about a month ago.
“The college students are great,” she said.
Thane and Nicole Taylor pushed two strollers, with their children Ajax, 10 months, and Penelope, 3, into the store after visiting a local park.
“It’s very nice,” Nicole said. “They did a really good job with it. We’ll have to bring the wallet next time.”
Registered nurse Molly Kamrowski, from St. Joseph, stopped at the boutique after spending the morning at craft sales.
“I really like it,” Kamrowski said. “I am excited to see what else she brings in.”
Kolstad, who also works full-time with home health care, has owned another Babygirlz Boutique in Long Prairie since Dec. 1, 2012. She said she was approached by the owner of Retail Therapy wondering if they might be looking for a second location.
“After meeting with her and looking at the space and the area, we thought why not,” Kolstad said. “So, here we are.”
Kolstad said she loves to tell people how they got started because it’s a great example of the “American Dream.”
Kolstad started the Babygirlz boutique in August 2011, as a way to make money, besides running a home-based business called Vault Denim. She started with a $50 accessory order, selling at events, parties and online through their Facebook page.
“We started out very broke and kept putting money back in,” Kolstad said. “People kept requesting more things and the business kind of grew from there.”
About a month after starting the business, Kolstad’s husband, Brad Kolstad, left his full-time job to operate Babygirlz. The two traveled extensively, selling accessories and clothing at events, parties and also from their home for more than a year.
They soon realized they had too much inventory for their basement and began looking for a retail location.
“Eventually, we found a space we liked, along with terms we could live with and a great landlord,” Kolstad said. “So, we decided to go for it.”
They opened the first store with their “traveling” racks and tables, a Babygirlz Boutique banner on the wall and Brad working behind the counter.
“From that point, we continued to build our inventory, and replace displays one dollar, one sale at a time,” she said. “We are now a fully functioning, fully stocked boutique.”
About a year ago, Brad returned to work full-time as a truck driver and Kolstad’s mother, Darla Peterson, retired from her job as a pharmacy technician and began working part-time at the boutique.
With opening the second location, Kolstad plans to hire more part-time associates for the Long Prairie store.
The Kolstads are parents to five children Zachary, 22, Tanner, 21, Brady, 16, Jordan, 14, and Dacotah, 10. They previously worked with animal rescue and fostering and have three dogs – Smokie, Shayla and Baby Girl and three cats – Cocoa, Jo Jo and Pepper.
“We are huge animal lovers and they are all spoiled rotten,” Kolstad said.
Babygirlz is located at 11 College Ave. N, St. Joseph. The store is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Saturday. The boutique’s telephone number is 320-557-0094, website is babygirlzboutique.com and it can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/bbstjoseph.