Looking forward to keeping tradition
In many Golden Year anniversaries of businesses, an oath is made by commercial retailers to rejuvenate their stores from top to bottom, pledging to reinvigorate their companies with a rediscovered sense of enthusiasm that will last through another 50 years of helping meet the needs of each and every customer.
In the case of the Sugar Bowl Gift Shop, that sense of excitement and spirit will truly be present throughout the entire store in its 50th year of business, as a pair of young entrepreneurs will look to bolster one of downtown Storm Lake's most heralded mercantile enterprises with a combination of energy and enthusiasm.
Storm Lake native Molly Wilson and husband Mike Kohler will officially take charge of the historic Lake Avenue company on Oct. 1, and the two are looking forward to making a positive impact on the Lake Avenue commercial scene and in the community.
"There were a number of reasons why we wanted to come back and run the Sugar Bowl," Wilson said. "We really love Storm Lake, and when we lived up in the Twin Cities we were really starting to miss that sense of community you find in a smaller town like this. Plus, there are a lot of great opportunities here, and we wanted to make sure that we were here to take advantage of those opportunities.
"We both sat down and decided that it was a risk worth taking," Wilson continued. "We both love the area, and we thought we'd be investing in a good business in a good community."
"We both believe in this downtown, and we were both excited about coming and being a part of this community," Kohler, who grew up on a farm near Minneapolis, said. "It's exciting to be a part of this community not only as an owner of a business but as a resident. We thought that this town was special, and that's why we made the decision to come here."
While the couple's desire to move from the busy streets of the Twin Cities to the slower lifestyle of Storm Lake was one factor in the choice to relocate to northwest Iowa, Wilson's past also played a role in their present decision to run the store now and in the future. A longtime babysitter for the former owners, Larry and Bonnie Phillips, she also worked in the Sugar Bowl for six years during high school and college, and said her close association with the store gave her a sense of how special it would be for her and Mike to run the business themselves.
"There's a lot of tradition that's been built in this store, and we feel honored that we have the chance to carry on that tradition," Wilson said. "I've known the Phillips for a long time and know how much hard work has been put into the store, so we want to make sure we keep that tradition alive."
While each will have defined roles in the venture's management, both will be highly visible around the gift shop, interacting with customers in order to receive feedback from them on how to further enhance the enterprise.
They will also work together on adding their own personal touches to the establishment's inventory. The business will carry a line of Wilson's custom-made jewelry, Luna Chicks, and will contain different gifts for babies, toddlers and young children. It will also feature more home decoration items such as tables and lamps.
However, the two stressed that the old standbys such as candles, crafts, collectibles and a free gift wrapping service will not be disappearing from the store.
Kohler and Wilson will hold a grand opening at the business on Thursday, Oct. 24, and hope the festivities will be the first of many community events they will celebrate in Storm Lake over the coming years.
"We moved into our house on Sunday, and as I was sitting in front of the house at least 12 cars drove by with people extending a wave to let us know that they were glad to see us here," Wilson said. "To feel that welcoming spirit and support from the whole town is something that we really feel makes Storm Lake a great place to be. It's going to be fun being here."