August 27, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

To some, “small town” can imply limits, not too much to offer, even boring. But to others who know better, the term small town suggests friendly people, strong values, and off-the-beaten-path variety. The merchants of Olde Towne Elkhorn are working together to promote the latter identity and are slowly but surely being discovered.

Just a few blocks west of the busy highway that is 204th Street, you’ll find a quiet street lined with plenty of unique spots that bring about a shopping experience that will satisfy and surprise those not already familiar with Olde Towne.

“We’re still kind of a secret, but I think it’s growing more and more,” says Andrea Ramsey, owner of Andrea’s Designs. It’s a unique combination of women-owned businesses, as well as the camaraderie that these women share, that has helped this small business district become a welcoming and fun place to spend an afternoon.

The shops range from home furnishings and décor, to clothing and jewelry, to a haven for local artists and those with a green thumb. And while the shopping will satisfy a variety of styles and tastes, the owners of these businesses have one goal in mind…to support one another.

“We’re still kind of a secret, but I think it’s growing more and more.” – Andrea Ramsey, owner of Andrea’s Designs

Andrea’s Designs specializes in traditional home décor and furniture. Ramsey is an interior decorator and works with fresh flowers as well.

Leona Anderson, owner of Little Scandinavia, has had her shop for seven years. This little haven of all things Scandinavian has more than the customary moose and Viking-related items. It also offers sweaters made of Norwegian wool, Danish jewelry, and a small section devoted to food and drink favorites from the region. The store is welcoming and cozy, especially when Anderson greets you with a cup of coffee and home-baked goodies.

Anderson has seen the community grow in recent years. “Each one of these women brings something unique and fun to our downtown,” she says. “We have a good time when we get together.”

Studioviews, owned by Deb Trowbridge, had its grand opening last April. The studio offers lessons in working with clay and slab pottery, as well as original works. Trowbridge and her partner, Colleen Riordan, also do commission work such as custom mosaic countertops and backsplashes.

“It’s really charming and has a lot of character. I think people miss that.” – Karly Van Wie-Olson, owner of Karly & Company

Across the street, Karly Van Wie-Olson opened Karly & Company last November. While she specializes in home décor and gifts, Van Wie-Olson describes her style as more rustic with a mix of contemporary. She is also an interior designer for both residential and commercial spaces. She says that her experience with Olde Towne has been wonderful. “It’s really charming and has a lot of character. I think people miss that.”

She also appreciates the way the women all support one another and work so well together. “I love the people here.”

One way the Olde Towne group has found success in promoting each other’s businesses is in starting “Second Saturdays.” The promotion, which includes several but not all of the 21 downtown shops and eateries, allows customers to earn one “Olde Towne Buck” for every $20 they spend at participating shops on the second Saturday of every month. The shopkeepers will hold an annual auction in which customers can bid on items donated by participating stores. This free event includes complimentary hors d’oeuvres and beverages.

An old church houses Kelli Fuglsang’s shop, This & That & Other Stuff. Since moving in last October, Fuglsang has enjoyed working with the other ladies along Main Street. “I didn’t know what to expect being down here…we’re kind of off the beaten path.” She adds that they all look out for each other. “It’s phenomenal. I’m so happy to tell anybody that comes in about any of the shops…how to get to them, what they have…”

“If somebody’s running late, we’ll go stick a note up on the door or we’ll go in and help them out in their shop. It’s just really supportive.” – Michele Minnick, owner of The Garden Gallery

Using the shortcut that Fuglsang tells her customers about, you can find The Garden Gallery. At first glance, it appears to be the yard of a busy gardener; you soon discover that this is not the run-of-the-mill flower garden. “I specialize in really unusual annuals, perennials, and tropicals,” says owner Michele Minnick. Open year round, she also works with mums, poinsettias, and bulbs. Visitors will also find fun potting containers and garden art and accessories to help create your own “Fairy Garden.”

“They’re one of the biggest trends,” says Minnick. Legend says that these miniature gardens and their fairies will watch over your own garden and can include anything from tiny bridges, trees, ponds, pathways, and birds and nests.

Inside the Garden Gallery house, shoppers will find more unique pieces for, well…inside the house. The rooms of the old home have been converted to showrooms filled with fun clothing, jewelry, home décor, and art, much of which is supplied by as many as 25 to 30 local artists, including Minnick herself. “I do more whimsical paintings,” she says as she points to the brightly colored canvases.

Minnick’s been in Olde Towne for several years and says that she loves the community of which she has become a part. “It’s neat, because all of us are different.”

The neighborly atmosphere cannot be missed. “If somebody’s running late, we’ll go stick a note up on the door or we’ll go in and help them out in their shop,” she says. “It’s just really supportive…It’s good.”

If you’re looking for a fun, friendly, and unique shopping excursion, Olde Towne Elkhorn will not disappoint. Bring your friends—and make new ones—in Olde Towne.

Be sure to check out Olde Towne Elkhorn’s blog at oldetowneelkhorn.blogspot.com and stop out for the next Ladies Day Out, Sept. 21 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

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