It’s true of the friendship that blossomed between local entrepreneurs Nicole Lemmerman and Tara Thorn. And it’s especially true of Gathered Goods Company, the new shop and creative space they developed in Tonka Bay to give their passions a home: Sometimes the best things in life just happen.
Lemmerman and Thorn had an immediate connection over their interest in locally made and fair-trade goods. They had both built successful small businesses but had always dreamed of expanding into a dedicated retail space. After a planning session over coffee and some prayer, they opened their full-fledged shop on Manitou Road in May.
From the beginning, the goal has been to do business “on our terms, with our style,” says Thorn. “We walked in—and you know, sometimes you just know. We’re both strong in our faith—it’s been a really beautiful experience seeing this all come together.”
The aesthetic of Gathered Goods Company is decidedly lively. Huge front windows spill natural light onto potted succulents and carefully curated collections of locally made and ethically sourced home décor, clothing, gifts and accessories. In the back, a craft bar, made by Thorn’s boyfriend, displays colorful art supplies in glass apothecary jars, situated behind large tables—all so visitors can join in the creative process.
“Our goal is to be a place where people can get away, treat themselves to something fun, and bring their kids. We hope it’s refreshing, fresh and bright,” says Thorn. “I think we’ve achieved it.”
The space offers a unique shopping experience, to be sure, with items designed to help make the world a better place—in addition to being beautiful and functional. Many products offered at Gathered Goods Company are eco-friendly and come with a philanthropic promise. There’s also a community-centered vibe at the shop. There’s room to linger, take a class, create or come to terms with tough things in life. So far, it’s met a need in its neighborhood (near the intersection of Tonka Bay, Shorewood and Excelsior).
“I prayed a bunch before we opened the store. I said, ‘God, don’t let this work out if it’s not your will.’ It all just came together so easily,” says Lemmerman. “We’re putting our faith out there—there are scripture verses on handles and signs in the store, but not in an in-your-face kind of way.” She adds that the community has rallied around the shop and welcomed the concept. Neighbors have donated materials or offered to help with marketing and photography. “I’ve been overwhelmed by the people in the community coming together, stepping up to help us get started,” she says.
Thorn says the other businesses in their retail strip have also been extremely supportive, sometimes amusingly so. “Hazellewood Grill sends people over while they’re waiting for a table, and we’ve had people come from Aveda next door with dye in their hair,” she says. “We want to be a gathering place for the community, a place for people to gather as family or friends—or with the random people they’ve just met that night.”
Lemmerman and Thorn offer an ever-changing schedule of classes and wares, which keeps the space fresh and surprising, even for customers who stop by frequently. The team’s working on a fall class lineup that might include blogging how-tos, marathons for beginners, macramé or farmhouse clock-making. Drop-in options include a build-your-own bracelet station, where visitors can create their look du jour without needing to plan ahead.
The team is also dreaming up non-crafty uses of the space. The work tables could be a convenient spot for topical Bible studies, mental health discussions, or a support group for cancer survivors. The owners hope that unconventional options can reinforce the community-driven, come-as-you-are vibe.
As for the shopping? Thorn and Lemmerman have established strong partnerships out of the gate with
a handful of local brands:
Cedar & Cypress
After living in Haiti for five years before moving to Minnesota, Thorn fell in love with the culture and launched her own brand named for the biblical passage where Solomon builds a temple out of cedar and cypress wood. The heart of Cedar & Cypress is to empower artists and businesses; it employs more than 500 men and women in seven countries who sell their imported goods to the wider American market. Available on Etsy and in several brick-and-mortar shops, the line features modern jewelry, hand-punched tin wall hangings, and accessories in organic shapes and materials.
Oscar & Olivia
Lemmerman’s brainchild came about when she was a new mom struggling to find comfy—and cute—hair accessories for her kids. She started making them for her own family, then for friends, and then for a growing number of buyers on Etsy and beyond. Tiny bows, flowery headbands and barrettes are made of 100 percent Merino wool, imported felt, faux leather, and a heaping dose of glitter and glam. The colorful garlands of felted balls or whimsical unicorn-horn headbands make great gifts for tiny humans.
Scott Ballard first developed his brand in an entrepreneurship class at the University of St. Thomas, and the Gathered Goods owners fell in love with his wooden sunglasses at an artisan show last year. Each pair has a city skyline subtly laser-cut in the frames, and Gathered Goods carries the Minneapolis version, of course. “We wanted to capture the sense of unity and belonging our city skyline provided in a way that had yet to be done before,” says the website. “Our mission is to champion state pride and develop community one pair at a time. Your city, your story, your specs.”
These babies are completely handmade, with colorful self-care items, lotions, candles and accessories filling a wooden logo-burned box. For each one sold, another is given to a woman recovering from domestic abuse or escaping trafficking. When Gathered Goods Company first opened, an Uplift-A-Box class allowed guests to assemble their own box with lip balm, soap and bath salts to fit their taste, knowing another box would be given to a woman in need. “And then we took some time to pray over the boxes, for the women who would receive them,” says Thorn. This type of gathering is exactly what she and Lemmerman had in mind from the very beginning: creative, communal events with an eye toward helping others. “That’s what’s really important to us,” says Thorn.
9/1 First Friday Sale
9/7—9/9 Open Studio Bracelet Bar
9/14 Uplift A Box
9/21 Macrame Wall Hangings
9/30 Wreath Making