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Following her dream after job loss

Julie Gowen looked around the showroom at the Floor to Ceiling Store in Baxter, noticed her coworkers in tears and knew something was up.

Gowen, who had worked as an interior designer at the store for six years, was the last employee told last Oct. 5 that the store was closing.

She had been out of the office helping a client with a remodeling project.

She was devastated. She loved her work. Her final day was a month later.

“I never really knew it was that bad. I knew it was tight but I didn’t see the severity,” Gowen said of the store’s financial struggles.

Sure, she knew the recession hit the housing industry which, in turn, affected the 44-year-old Baxter business. But its closure was still a shock.

“I went through a couple months of depression,” Gowen said, as she tried to figure out what she was going to do next. Her husband, Tim, had worked for the Floor to Ceiling corporation’s marketing division in the Twin Cities and was let go in 2007 after his department was closed — right on his 40th birthday.

During the last five years he struggled to find a comparable job until recently when he was hired as an outside sales representative for floor coverings.

Then, a few months after she lost her job, her husband suffered a heart attack in January.

When it seemed it couldn’t get any worse, she was hospitalized for seven days with a medical condition.

Gowen had done similar interior design work in the Twin Cities for six years before she and her family moved to Breezy Point. She had a passion for it.

Gowen had dreamed a year before she was laid off of opening her own business helping people with interior design. But back then, she was too afraid to take that leap of faith.

She was a good salesperson and enjoyed working with people; from 1993 to 2001 she was a nine-time national salesperson for a home clothing business. She also had a knack for interior design.

“I knew if I could do that on my own I could do this,” Gowen said.

She started her business, JAG Interior Solutions, early this year.

While several of her former clients wanted to continue working with her, Gowen knew she needed a home base, a showroom of her own.

Her new showroom would allow clients to see and touch quality carpet, wood flooring and tiles, as well as look through paint samples, view custom window treatments and upholstery and compare countertops and cabinetry.

She wanted to open her showroom in Crosslake and as luck would have it, met Bill Berglund, owner of Home Interior Supply in Crosslake, in February.

The two teamed up to share space and created an attractive showroom on Ox Lake Landing Road in Crosslake, displaying quality products that Gowen personally picked because of her experience and relationships with the vendors.

It’s not necessarily a retail store, but a place where Gowen can meet clients and help them design a concept for their home. Her husband also assists in the showroom on a part-time basis.

Gowen has never been happier.

“I love it here,” she said with a smile. “It’s fun to come to work. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire life.”

Gowen said steel blues and grays are very popular colors now, as well as like a piece of art, she explained. Wallpaper would be featured on one or two walls, not all of them in a room.

Her hope is that she can help her customers create a vision of what their home will be.

“I help them pull it all together and give them confidence that it’s the right thing,” she said.

“The bottom line is, we want to make their home more beautiful and done as seamless as possible,” added her husband.

Julie Gowen said her business is doing well so far; they are exceeding their business plan and goals set for their first year already.

Tim Gowen said he and his wife work closely with each client. Whether they want a new tile sink backsplash or a whole house outfitted with custom window treatments, every client is equally important, he said.

“It’s all about service,” he added.

JAG Interior Solutions will help with designing everything in the home from top to bottom, except they don’t sell furniture.

JAG Interior Solutions will host a grand opening celebration from 4-8 p.m. Sept. 13 at the showroom, located at 37542 Ox Lake Landing Road, Crosslake.

For more information or to set up an appointment, call Julie Gowen at (218) 820-3800.