• 79°

Why I Love Albert Lea

Why I love Albert Lea by Mary Packer Umstead

I simply love Albert Lea, and I am over the moon for its people. Bill, Carly and I moved back to the Midwest in August 1986. We grew up in small Iowa towns, Humboldt and Eagle Grove. Bill’s parents owned a sale barn and had cattle and horse sales for 57 years. Every other Saturday, come rain, shine or blizzard, they sold cattle in the morning and horses in the afternoon. Thus, we have raised cattle and horses for many years.

We intended to move to Mankato, where I could continue my English and history major. There are no rentals in August in Mankato because of the abundance of students, and on our return to Iowa, our truck broke down in Albert Lea. The people at Collins Auto Repair were wonderful to us; however, the part we needed would take about two weeks to come in to their shop.  Buzz Hagen came in to Collins one day as I checked on the truck part.

He said, “We need to find you a place to live, and your daughter needs to sign up for school.” So we settled here. I worked at the old Kahler as bar manager for a couple years. I met nice people who worked at the prestigious hotel. I met business owners, real estate folks, radio announcers, auctioneers, other bar owners and restaurant folks, all who believed in Albert Lea and loved this community.

One day a dear friend told me she wished to sell her consignment store, and I found it was my niche. D.J. Duds became The Mary Go Round Shoppe Nov. 1, 1988. So who knew I would fall in love with my business and absolutely love my job? The folks who cross my threshold grace me daily. I still have a bar tender’s ear and a shoulder to share. The people in my community and surrounding towns all have stories to tell, and I am a listener. They come for a smile or a hug. I am a hugger, so COVID-19 is tough on us who need to touch. Many of my customers and clients have become the dearest of friends.

I am grateful to share downtown with EJ’s Mercantile, Whimzy, Junktion Market, Plymouth Shoe Store, Expressions, Fisher and Stadheim jewelers, Addie’s, Adams Originals, Brick Furniture, Frames-R-Us, Between Friends, Ellen & Jane Boutique, Holcomb Tax, the Art Center and all of the restaurants and other businesses. To those of you who have deeply touched my life, my bankers, book club gals, hairdressers, accountant, medical angels and my consigners who clean out their closets for my business, I am so thankful. My yoga teacher has shared with me that “having an attitude of gratitude” is very important.  My yoga family is awesome as well as my own family, and the fact that we have three other great consignment stores in our community.

I believe our lives are divinely guided. I also believe we are more alike than different. We all want people to honor us, value us, respect us and love us. In spite of our political, religious or personal beliefs we can beg to differ. Once we acknowledge that, perhaps we can learn to be kind and compassionate, and recognize we can be the peace that we alone can initiate.

Albert Lea has some magic within its communal aura, and I see it and feel it every day.  The town is full of beautiful lakes, wonderful walking trails and delightfully enchanting parks. I gratefully turn my thoughts this holiday season to those who make me who I am.

Happy new year from The Mary Go Round Shoppe.

Mary Packer Umstead has owned The Mary Go Round Shoppe for 33 years and is passionate about her business. She and her husband, Bill, have a daughter, Carly Solland, as well as four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.