FARGO — Pamela Kinslow is one of many small business owners on Main and Eighth St. in downtown Fargo who participated in a shopping block party on Thursday, Nov. 30 to kick off holiday shopping.
“I just want people to come out enjoy the experience of being downtown, coming to each individual shop and business and realizing how much there really is down here.” Kinslow said.
Kinslow just celebrated owning her store, Violet Vintage, for 11 years. Before making her dreams into a reality of owning her shop, Kinslow worked in specialty shops for 25 years.
“The key factors of success, in my opinion, are being a personable person that’s running the show, I believe in excellent customer service. That’s my mantra.” Kinslow said.
Providing customer service posed a challenging undertaking for Kinslow and numerous others amidst the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns. To keep afloat, Kinslow turned to managing an ETSY shop and some loyal customers who continued to come to maintain financial stability.
“I just decided I have to keep this going,” Kinslow said. “Despite COVID I never took any time off. I just made it a point to be here. That was my purpose to be here.”
Deb Harris’s jewelry store, Elle Michelle, is two doors down from Violet Vintage. Elle Michelle is a narrow and small shop filled with jewelry from across the world. Unlike Violet Vintage, Elle Michelle is a relatively new shop on the block making its debut after the COVID-19 pandemic
“I’ve been collecting vintage jewelry for like 30 years. And I’m in the music department at Concordia and I traveled a lot with music,” Harris said.
Harris is a professor at Concordia College teaching the flute. Her primary focus is on her teaching position, and her shop is more of a hobby where she can collect what catches her eye and then sell the collections from her travels.
“It’s almost like music in a way. Because when you play music, people are happy. When people come into the shop, they’re happy,” Harris said.
Since most of Harris’s time is occupied by her teaching position at Concordia, she receives help from her family members, including her ninety-two-year-old mother, to operate the store when she can’t. Along with the support from her family, the community culture of the small business owners on Eighth and Main provides support for one another.
“The other thing is a lot of us are really good friends and so we just kind of support each other,” Harris said. “It just feels like kind of a family.”
Donna Ormiston, who used to be a collector in California, owns Reed and Taylor, a vintage store focused on furniture. Reed and Taylor is stuffed with furniture, vintage clothing, jewelry and various other knickknacks. The block’s community feels like a family, Ormiston said.
Reed and Taylor was originally located on Broadway Dr. but moved onto Main St. because of the landlord of Watkin Block, Frank Leland “Lee” Watkins. Watkins personally chooses each one of his tenants. Ormiston and Watkins attended high school together which was one of the driving factors in selecting Ormiston to rent the property.
“He never raised our rents, he supports small business, otherwise none of us would be in business,” Ormiston said.
Violet Vintage, Elle Michelle and Reed and Taylor were just three of 13 shops, all from various categories, that participated in the block party. Some stores on the block have limited regular hours but the block party extended regular shop hours until 9 p.m. All shops offered discounts, beverages and snacks pastries to their shoppers, including wine, chocolates and pastries.
Mike Ellingson is a loyal customer and friend to the shop owners on Eighth St. and Main Ave.
“Every Saturday, I go for walks and visit my friends,” Ellingson said. “There’s times if I don’t show up a couple Saturdays in a row, I get a call wondering if I’m okay.”
Ellingson is an artist, owning a custom picture frame shop since 1979 and an avid collector of anything with a connection to the past.
“My first advice is always buy stuff because you love it. Don’t buy it because you’re thinking oh, someday this will be worth a lot of money,” Ellingson said.
The block party’s intention was to attract new customers and give exposure to shops that typically rely on their loyal customers.
“I just want people to come out enjoy the experience of being downtown, coming to each individual shop and business and realizing how much there really is down here,” Kinslow said.