WILLMAR -- On The Avenue floral and gift shop has been open in Willmar just four months and is already ready to expand.
Owners and sisters Kristin Larson and Kaitlyn Larson opened their second floral and gift shop in a converted older home at 611 Becker Ave. S.W., near Willmar's downtown. The shop is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
They already own the 15-year-old On The Avenue shop in Belgrade. They started working for their mother in the Belgrade shop as teenagers and later took over the business.
The Willmar shop is located in a house on Becker Avenue. It has a front porch filled with light and filled with thriving green plants. Inside, the owners took advantage of the original woodwork and hardwood floors to create a cozy atmosphere. A new custom-made wooden counter is stained to blend in with the older woods.
The merchandise is an eclectic mix of styles. Along with plants and flowers they sell jewelry, hats, scarves, purses, children's merchandise and a variety of home decorating items.
They started the business thinking that they could keep their flower inventory in their walk-in cooler in Belgrade and use a display cooler in Willmar. But they've already seen the need for a walk-in cooler at each location.
The addition they plan will give them room for a cooler and will also give them more floor space in the shop, where they will add cards and balloons to the inventory. They plan to preserve and reinstall the original built-in buffet and leaded window from the wall they will be knocking out.
The Larsons said they see themselves staying in the location for some time. "We love downtown and we love this house," Kristin said. "The woodwork, the feel of it; it's very much in line with our personalities."
As much as they can, they try to offer merchandise made in Minnesota or the United States.
"We get our plants and flowers from Minnesota wholesalers," Kaitlyn said.
Their jewelry display includes some manufactured items and some handmade by Amanda Weeks of Willmar. "That helps us accomplish different price points," Kristin said. The women said they work hard to provide flowers and merchandise for all budgets.
They plan to stock Mr. B's chocolates made in Willmar and carry Kandiyohi Candle Co. products. The candles and lotions are ordinarily sold only at the company store in Kandiyohi.
The women sell original artwork on consignment, including pottery and water color paintings from Minnesota artists.
The shop is currently featuring baby quilts and receiving blankets made by 14-year-old Molly Wentzel of Willmar. She is raising money to go on a mission trip to Guyana in South America next winter.
Children's items include colorful accessories and small toys. They feature crocheted hats from Joy Goulson of Willmar and products from Pretty Princess Tutus & More, owned by Jami Hamstad of Pennock.
"We definitely do our best to seek out unique products," Kristin said.
A rack of hats made by a Seattle company are all one of a kind. They use the company's website to choose pattern, fabric and decorations for each hat.
One specialty is custom silk arrangements. "We pride ourselves on being creative," Kristin said.
Kaitlyn said they regularly attend design shows to learn about the latest looks and to get ideas for their designs. "We got a lot of positive feedback on our prom work," Kristin said.
"It's a labor of love," she said. "It's great to see people get flowers, to see how happy they are."
The possibilities of the Willmar location came together for them through business acquaintances, they said.
Kristin called it "a series of blessings." The met a woman who was closing her business in Bird Island through a business contact. Another led them to Cecil Meyer, who owns their building. He wanted a business in the house and worked with them to make it happen, they said.
The sisters spend most of their time at the shop in Willmar and are living in Willmar. Their mother and aunts work in the Belgrade shop.
It is a family business in many ways. Their dad and brother deliver valentines for them. Cousin Randy Paul of Spicer built their new counter.
"I see a promising worker in our niece," Kristin said. "She's only 10 months old, but she's definitely into it."
The sisters said it is not hard for them to run the business together. "I think it's easier," Kaitlyn said. "We can share our frustrations with each other and then be over it."
Even when they disagree about something, "we have to love each other," Kristin added.
More information about the business is available at their website, http://
ontheavenuefloral.com. They're also on Facebook as On The Avenue, Floral & Gifts.