Necessity is the mother of invention. When Amanda and Scott Ficek moved in 2009 from their south Minneapolis home to Minnetrista, they thought their new community was as close to perfect as it could be—a solid Mound school district for their three children and vistas bookended with lakeshore and horse country. “The only piece missing was retail and restaurants,” Amanda Ficek says.
After a shopping trip to Buffalo (the region’s occasional shopping mecca), Ficek became intrigued by the town’s retail rhythm, which hosts several stores, open a few days every month, featuring antiques, repurposed and reclaimed items, and handmade products. “I came back to Mound and I thought, ‘I can make something like that here,’ ” she says. “I was driven by the desire to see Mound get going.” Once she secured a storefront in Mound, Ficek began corralling vendors. She also put the word out to friends and neighbors, asking if they or anyone they knew were interested in contributing items for a store. “My phone started ringing, and the emails started coming in,” Ficek says.
Armed with 10 vendors, she opened Mama’s Happy in 2010, a home décor and vintage furniture gift store with handmade and refinished merchandise. “I wanted it to be a little oasis for women who like this stuff.”
In March 2012, after the landlord sold the property where Mama’s Happy had been residing, Ficek hung her shingle out in front of the historic Lyndale Creamery in Independence. The success of that store spawned Mama’s Happy storefronts in St. Louis Park, on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue and in Stillwater, with more than 50 vendors.
Ficek loves surrounding herself with repurposed goods. She and her family even restored the upper level of the old creamery into their home, but her real joy comes from watching women become artists and vendors. Some approach her with their goods in hand and their hearts on their sleeves, presenting their wares.
“When I say, ‘That’s awesome. I can sell that,’ I can see a woman’s confidence lifted, and I appreciate that moment,” she says. “They have a gift, and they just don’t realize it.”
Vendor Lori Gravink says that Ficek trusts her skill. “She doesn’t expect us all to have the same skill set,” Gravink says. “She lets us contribute to Mama’s Happy what we are good at, comfortable with and where we want to grow.”
Trust is just part of what Gravink needed when she faced two corporate layoffs in three years. Unable to secure employment, she recalls asking herself, “How was I going to support myself as a single person? I had to dig into what I had.”
What she had was a creative soul. After meeting Ficek in 2013 and featuring her items in trunk shows, Gravink’s upcycled clothing is now featured at Mama’s Happy venues. “I love vintage textiles,” she says. “I have a basement full of it.”
Gravink’s success has spawned LaDeeDa Design, which also includes embellished tank tops and repurposed furniture. “I’ve evolved with Amanda,” she says. “It has helped me expand at Mama’s Happy and support myself.”
After operating for the last five years in growth mode, Ficek is content with the current four venues. “Right now, I feel really settled with where we are,” she says. “This is manageable for me, and I’m excited to see what this next phase brings.”