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After loss of her husband, woman opens Poopsie's, her dream shop, to showcase art

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Barb Housey says there's something for everyone in Poopsie's Unique Boutique in Thief River Falls. Janelle Vonasek / Forum News Service2 / 8
A children's section in Poopsie's Unique Boutique includes this knitted owl purse, along with quilts and baby blankets in supersoft chenille. Janelle Vonasek / Forum News Service3 / 8
Barb Housey shows decorative dish towels and table runners in her Poopsie's Unique Boutique in Thief River Falls. Janelle Vonasek / Forum News Service4 / 8
Nature's beauty comes out in this log side table. Janelle Vonasek / Forum News Service5 / 8
Hand-loomed rag rugs and table runners come in all colors at Poopsie's Unique Boutique. Janelle Vonasek / Forum News Service6 / 8
A serving tray is made from distressed wood. Janelle Vonasek / Forum News Service7 / 8
Poopsie's Unique Boutique features many pieces made by regional woodworkers such as this bowl. Janelle Vonasek / Forum News Service8 / 8

THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn. — For some people, shopping is an event to experience all its own. For others, it's a necessary evil reserved only for times of extreme hunger or when in need of new drill bits or bandsaw blades.

Thief River Falls' Barb Housey falls into the first category — her late husband, Ray, in the latter.

"The only time Ray and I shopped together was grocery shopping or Menards," Housey said. "He was a retired woodworker, and Menards was like a toy store for him. I can see him just standing there and looking, where do I go next."

The couple's shopping styles may have been on opposite ends of the spectrum, but Barb says her husband was on the level when he told her to follow her dream.

Ray died of cancer in 2015, and she opened Poopsie's Unique Boutique the same year. The consignment store, named in honor of Ray and his nickname for her, features the work of more than 40 regional artists and craftsmen.

"He encouraged me to open my shop so I wouldn't be lonesome," Housey said. "He knew me well, and he knew it would keep me busy."

Ninety percent of the items sprinkled throughout every nook and cranny of Poopsie's are handcrafted, Housey said. She also uses old and new bric-a-brac to create custom flower arrangements.

Silk to chenille

The store carries everything from distressed furniture to purses made of Japanese silk to hand-carved bowls and colorful rag rugs and table runners. It also has several repurposed antiques such as a six-pack of milk bottles ready to display fresh-cut flowers.

Old barnwood is turned into ladders, decorative frames and wall hangings with inspirational sayings such as "You will never regret being kind."

A separate children's section includes a crazy-bright, hand-knitted bag complete with tassels, orange beak and big owl eyes, as well as crocheted sweaters and baby blankets in supersoft chenille.

"Variety is the spice of life," Housey says. "We have something for everybody and all ages."

A bell on the shop door rings every time a customer arrives, and Housey takes the time to greet and visit with each one.

A self-described "people person," Housey worked for 35 years in billing and registration at Northwest Medical Center, later called Sanford.

"I look forward to coming here because it's not like a job for me anymore," Housey said. "It's something I enjoy, and I like being my own boss."

Hands-on shopping

Customers linger and wander, seeming to get lost in the shopping experience. Housey says she can relate.

"I like to get together with the girls, go out to lunch and then shop, laugh and have a good time," she said. "I'm a hands-on shopper. I'm the kind of person who likes to see what I'm buying and feel what I'm buying. I want to know what I'm getting, and online, I cannot do that. When I can get what I need locally, it's even better."

Poopsie's is located at 315 N. LaBree Ave. and is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.