by Anja Wuolu
On an icy Friday morning, three women stand waiting for the White Peony Boutique to open. Glossy floors and bright, white lights dazzle the shoppers with products of pink and neutral colors. The three women are excited to go inside. Although the St. Joseph location at 25 First Ave. NW only opened a few months ago, the boutique has already become an important part of local women’s lives.
Inside the store, one woman admitted she rolled right out of bed to visit this shop. Another brought two small children. People entered to buy new clothes or simply to chat. A tray of cookies, pink lemonade and pink napkins rests on a table for shoppers.
“We are in a good spot in St. Jo(seph) just because we can attract so many different ages,” said Abby Meagher, a new hire at White Peony.
College students, people coming out of church and townies all frequent the store. Meagher was a regular shopper before she began working for the boutique. The owner, Lindsay Salzbrun, sat down for an interview before resuming preparations for the Shop Small Crawl.
“I’ve always wanted to have my own store since I was a little girl,” Salzbrun said.
Business-owning runs in the family. Salzbrun’s family owns four stands at the Minnesota State Fair. As a child, she helped her family out. Soon, she began having dreams of owning her own shop. Although she excitedly told her grandmother her many entrepreneurial ideas, Salzbrun did not immediately start a business.
Salzbrun spent 13 years working at financial institutions. She became a mother to two girls. Although she loved her coworkers and family, she felt exhausted and unfulfilled.
“Everything was just really busy,” Salzbrun said. “At the time, we were just on the move, like constantly. I was kind of at empty. And I realized life is just too short.”
Salzbrun decided to take a leap of faith and quit her job to start White Peony. The name came from her favorite flower.
“I wanted to start the boutique,” Salzbrun said, “not only for the fulfillment of an idea I’ve had for a very long time, but also I wanted to create a space for like-minded women who need kind of an outlet, who need somewhere to go where they feel a sense of belonging or part of a community, that there’s zero judgment.”
Salzbrun said she really values quality product. She travels across the country searching for clothing, home decor and accessories for busy women. Her store sells jewelry, sweaters, wedding gifts and more. She has two goals: equip the modern woman with quality, stylish clothing and create a place for busy moms and working women to find each other.
White Peony first began in Salzbrun’s St. Cloud home in May of 2018. Orders could be placed online or people could come into Salzbrun’s basement to browse. It offered a place for women to venture outside of their home and create a little community of people with similar taste in clothing and home decor.
However, with merchandise piling up in every room of the house, Salzbrun realized her boutique was outgrowing her home. White Peony soon relocated to the St. Cloud Shed.
At first, Salzbrun thought the St. Cloud location would act as simply a warehouse to hold products for online orders. But Salzbrun soon realized this model did not fit with her values.
“Actually,” Salzbrun said, “what we found is I can’t do that. I have to have in-person. That’s like my pride and joy. I love connecting with people. That’s like my favorite thing in the world.”
Missing social connections, Salzbrun said she decided to organize several events at the shed. Ladies’ nights, speakers and work parties of as many as 60 people gathered at White Peony. Many of the events have nothing to do with shopping, but instead are ways for people to socialize. There has been an air-frying event, various craft events and more.
“I’ve seen genuine authentic friendships formed between people who’ve never met each other before,” said Tara Kunkel, an employee of White Peony. “The number one thing I love about working here is the amazing people I get to meet through our customers and through our events, and the team is absolutely amazing.”
The St. Joseph location opened in September. Salzbrun has not yet had any events in the new space, aside from participating in the Shop Small Crawl, but plans to organize woman-centered events at the Joetown location in the near future.