A stark white building with the single painted phrase “Golden Rule” stands out as a recent addition to the shops on Water Street in Excelsior. Though its grand opening just happened in May, the shop has already had a great reception from the community, and shop owner Erin Kate Duininck could not be happier.
“Just your railing enticed me,” says a customer upon entering the shop. And she’s right: There isn’t a detail left untouched by Duininck and her collective of artists. From the paint colors on the wall to the wood floors, the building itself is a work of art, not to mention what’s inside.
Having moved to Excelsior seven years ago, Duininck loves the town where she lives and works. “Excelsior does it for me,” she says, talking about the vibrant arts community that exists in this small town. And every day, she and a half-dozen other artists dedicate their time to the shop and people in this community.
Duininck’s journey to open Golden Rule was not a short one. Growing up with musician parents, Duininck was interested in art and making jewelry from a young age. At age 14, she started an apprenticeship with a silversmith and proceeded to open her own business, EKATE, in the same year. A singer/songwriter as well, Duininck spent many years playing music at various clubs and venues before deciding to focus on art. She opened an Etsy shop in 2008 and started a gallery on her own property called Orchard Art House (OAH) in 2010. Three years later, she moved the gallery to George Street in Excelsior as a pop-up shop open for 18 months.
There was always something about OAH that felt temporary to Duininck. She loved the space she had created, but knew she could do more, and was ready to take a risk. Inspired by a postcard created by Krista Armbrust of Armed Creative that read “The Golden Rule,” Duininck used to stare at those three words over and over again until it dawned on her that that was what she wanted to do: Open a shop that felt like the Golden Rule.
Duininck’s heart is one of connecting with others, so a shop with the mantra of cultivating community and bringing people together made perfect sense. Working with other artists, Golden Rule sells everything from prints, bags and leather goods to notebooks, aprons, cards and even honey. “It’s super-important to me to have small-batch [pieces], to feel like you’re getting something that not everyone else has,” Duininck says.
She also loves to commemorate significant moments in people’s lives with her custom jewelry, whether those moments are ones of joy or sorrow. But, she says, she “couldn’t make jewelry for jewelry’s sake. Sparkle can only go so far”—yet another reason Golden Rule was born.
Every member of the collective places a priority on relationships, not just selling art and accessories. “I love working with artists whom I respect and finding out that they are gorgeous humans,” Duininck says. “And having this [shop] has been sort of like a beacon: It attracts like-minded people who you want to be friends with and you want to associate with.”
Ashley Barlow is a mixed-media artist, graphic designer and freelancer from Minneapolis who has been working with Duininck for the last several years. Now a part of the collective, Barlow, who sells her own mixed-media works and prints at Golden Rule and has also worked on the shop’s branding, talks with Duininck nearly every day to discuss the shop, art and dreams for the future. “I don’t feel like there are a ton of shops selling art in the way our space does,” says Barlow, referring to the goods made by hand in a way that connects customers to a local maker.
That handmade goodness, along with an inviting atmosphere, is Duininck’s goal. “I want to meet people where they’re at,” she says. “I want this to be an invitation to people to just feel welcome and listened to. That’s sort of my mission.”