This morning we're talking to Jacob Fox from the Yellow River Trading Co. here in Spooner. He's more of a tea fan than coffee, and he's chosen the Dock's Earl Gray to start his day, it smells terrific!
As a bit of background, it was Jacob's grandparents, Phil and Nancy Markgren that ran the Spooner Bake Shoppe for years, carrying on the tradition Phil's father began back in 1952. When it came time for retirement, Phil knew he wanted to stay in the retail business, and when they found out that the Ben Franklin store, or more commonly known as Zellers, was being sold, the Markgren's jumped at the opportunity and bought it.
Now the store, with it's cozy and comfortable atmosphere that includes homelike seating urging folks to stay and visit and named for the local Yellow River, is a three-generation endeavor from its inception in 2014 operated by the Markgren's, their daughter Kim and her son Jacob.
The store has an entirely different look and feels from the former dime store; how did you choose the décor?
Right from the start, we knew we wanted the store to be warm and inviting. Like an old-fashioned general store complete with animal and fish mounts on the wall, nostalgic Spooner High School letter wear, antique hubcaps and a variety of tanned skins. There's a circle of glider rockers up front where customers can rest and chat while listening to music from the 40's.
What items did you keep in the store that were there before?
We're still a dime store at our roots. We carry a little bit of everything. The Ben Franklin/Zeller's Variety had been a part of all of our lives so we had a feel for what was needed and what we could let go. We still carry fabric and yarn and all the notions that go with it. We have a great line of silk florals and greens (pine) that everyone wants for their Northwoods homes. Home décor has been expanded to include braided rugs for tabletops and floors, and we carry strings of lights all year long.
What have you added since you opened in 2014?
We're all pretty frugal in our family, so the first thing we brought in was reasonably priced women's and men's fashion. Our customers love our prices! We have what we consider THE best soy candles/melts, and our customers agree. 1803 Candles burn 80 hours and are packed with so much fragrance! Fits Socks are similar to Smart Wool but are all made in the US. That's been something we've tried to focus on where we can. We have a great line of super soft blankets and sheet sets. Having owned the bakery for so many years, we just can't seem to give up our sweets, so we have jams/jellies, local honey, nostalgic candy, salt water taffy, Albanese gummi's and assorted chocolates and snack mixes. The Canadian wild rice we have is the best we've found. The list rounds out with potpourri, scented oils, tin signs, lighted artwork, hand painted (in store) personalized signs, pet supplies, Pali sandals, and antiques. We order small enough quantities that we can quickly drop a line or add another at any time so if there's something you'd like to see us carry, contact us and we'll see what we can do.
In 2015, we decided to enhance our sales by opening up a gun room at our store. It's been named the Buffalo Room after a huge tanned hide we have hanging on the back wall. Both Grandpa Phil and I are avid gun collectors/shooters, so the choice was a pretty easy one to make. We sell rifles, shotguns, pistols, and revolvers as well as all the accessories you need or want. I'm always on the computer researching. I want to be able to answer your questions to help you make the best decision about which firearm you wish to purchase. No pressure, no sales talk, just honest information. That's how I'd want to be treated. We also encourage everyone to become familiar with their firearm, follow guidelines on gun safety and get out and shoot. IRPC just outside of Spooner is a great place to do that. We sell memberships at our store. Lastly, we do transfers, too and at $20 it's the best deal in the area.
You’d mentioned that handguns out sell long guns. Why do you think that is?
I won't even venture to guess, but some have said they are genuinely concerned about crime rates rising. We've seen an increased number of women taking conceal/carry classes and purchasing their own pistols or revolvers. Some people just like to collect firearms and handguns take up less space to store. There are a variety of reasons. With every gun purchase, we follow all the federal and state laws that are in place requiring background checks.
How can people reach you?
Our store is located on Walnut Street on the corner across from Jersey's Sports Bar and the Palace Theater. Hours are Tuesday-Friday 9-5:30, Saturday 9-4. We're on Facebook, Instagram and our website is www.yellowrivertradingcompany.com. Our phone is 715-635-3328, or you can just message us on Facebook.
Is there anything else you'd like to add concerning your business?
As you mentioned, our family’s been in business in downtown Spooner for over 65 years. This is our hometown. We love the community, the caring citizens and the great way of life Spooner offers. Our customers are our friends and neighbors. We’re here to serve you, chat with and help you find what you’re looking for. So stop in next time you’re in the neighborhood. We’ll keep the rocker warm :)