Christa Kalk took a leap of faith when she opened the third location of her Minnesota Makers shop in August 2020 during the pandemic. The downtown Excelsior store features over 120 local Minnesota artists. She says, “Everything you see in the store is created by local Minnesota artists. I think that sets us apart from a lot of other businesses. We really stick with the integrity of supporting the local artists.”
Kalk says that, initially, she and her husband, Jay, hadn’t planned for the shop to be a permanent business. The idea for the store was sparked by an Etsy group Kalk was a part of, and she took it on as a sabbatical project in 2015. “At the beginning, I was just trying something. I wasn’t in it forever,” she says. “But I knew if I did want a forever store, I wanted it to be in Excelsior. It’s like a Hallmark town out here. There’s foot traffic. There’s the lake. It just feels good to be here.”
Kalk and her husband knew that before they would be able to afford rent for a larger storefront, they would have to get their start somewhere else. Minnesota Makers first opened shop in a 300-square-foot space in south Minneapolis. “I started the store with about 35 artists,” Kalk says. In less than a year, that number doubled, and the pair started looking for a larger space close to its home in Golden Valley.
After moving the store to Robbinsdale, Kalk was approached with an exciting proposition—opening a second location in the Minneapolis Visitor Center. “In March, COVID hit, so we closed that store because there was nobody downtown,” she says.
As the two-week shutdown turned into months of limited business closures, Kalk and her husband started taking serious stock of their situation. “We were really at the point where we were about to shut down for good. We thought, ‘Well, we can either close down all our stores and be done, or we could take a giant leap of faith and open a third location in downtown Excelsior,’” Kalk says. “And here we are. We opened in August, and, honestly, it’s been the thing that’s kept us going.”
Kalk looks forward to resuming classes at the new space. “Here, we can spread out. We can have more tables and really have some fun with it,” she says. “At our height, we were having six classes a week, and it was so much fun. We taught our own classes, and we had artists coming in. We had visitors coming in. It’s just been so great, so we’re really, really excited for that to happen again.”