A new name and a new location

Published 10:05 am Tuesday, February 28, 2023

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CLARKS GROVE — In the beginning, Andrea Strom and Penny Thompson just wanted to do flea markets together.

But little by little things evolved for the two women who have a heart for vintage and an eye for refurbishing.

The flea markets expanded into a business — Junktion Market — which started on Main Street for two years and then moved downtown on Broadway in Albert Lea for four years.

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About five years ago, the women started a second business — The Perfect Pair Estate and Downsizing Services — around the same time as the retirement of another woman in an estate sales business and after having a few customers ask them if they would consider doing so.

Now, this month Strom and Thompson opened their businesses under the new name of The Vintage Grove Co. in Clarks Grove, at the site of the former hardware store on Main Street.

“We didn’t plan a business, we didn’t plan a store,” Strom said. “We were going to do flea markets together — and we’ve done a couple — and then it just morphed and it kept morphing.”

Thompson said she and Strom were split between the downtown location for Junktion Market and a store at Northbridge Mall before they started renting at the Clarks Grove location for the estate sales.

At that time, the women said, they had a lot of offsite sales with the housing market moving quickly and people needing to downsize.

“We rented here, and then somebody was thinking about buying the building, and we were like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’” Thompson said.

While they had only rented the front portion of the building, they know what else the building had to offer, including a large warehouse in the back, where they could store their estate sales equipment and have a workshop area to paint and redo furniture right there instead of having to do it somewhere else and transport the furniture to their shop. The building also has storage units that were put in after a tornado damaged the building in 2017 and a loading dock on the back.

“Someone was making an offer, and we thought, ‘We are never going to find another building that is suited to all of our needs and in our price range,’” Thompson said.

So they threw their hat in the ring, made an offer and then signed on the property in May.

Strom said initially they had hoped to be open in both places, but quickly found out it was a lot of overhead cost.

“We knew immediately it was hard to keep up with both places,” Thompson said.

Though they loved being downtown and loved their landlord, Jay Waltman, they said they couldn’t sustain both sites and made the decision to combine both businesses into the Clarks Grove building.

With the help of Lynsie Stortroen with The Hustle Marketing Co., they have rebranded under one name, which they hope will be less confusing to customers.

“Everything we’ve done has been pretty organic,” Thompson said. “It just kind of evolves, and we let it evolve.”

The building has retail space in the whole front of the building — at least double of their former location downtown.

It includes a mix of vintage, antiques, refurbished furniture, new retail and some gifts.

“Penny and I miss our flea markets and our auctions, and we love vintage, and we really want to expand on that,” Strom said.

They are also planning a Minnesota corner in the shop with local vendors, including Scandinavian gift items, books by Minnesota authors, cookbooks and other items.

In January they were looking for a coffee and tea producer and said they would like a cottage producer to come in once or twice a month to sell goods.

“For years we’ve had this long, narrow spot to work with (downtown),” Strom said. “Now this place is huge.”

The soft opening for the business was Feb. 16, and they are planning a bigger open house on March 15 with a ribbon cutting through the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce.

The Vintage Grove Co. is open from noon to 6 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays through May 1, and then the hours will expand after that.

The storage units at the building are also available for rent.