Biz Buzz: Michaels to open in March in Baxter

Michaels plans to have a regular staff of 16-19 depending on scheduling and store needs for its new small format store as the arts and crafts retailer joins the lakes area.

Exterior of Michaels store in winter
Work continues on the new Michaels store in Baxter with the interior taking shape with departments. The store is slated for a March 24 opening and an early April grand opening.
Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER — The Michaels arts and crafts retail store will open March 24 in Baxter.

Rhonda Carlson, Michaels store manager in Baxter, was busy hiring recently. In late February, Carlson hired 30 employees and was looking for 20 more to get the new store set up. Inside it is already taking shape with departments and aisles now visible in what was an open vacant room not long ago.

Michaels plans to have a regular staff of 16-19 depending on scheduling and store needs.

“I have had such a great time interviewing the people that I have up in this area, I moved here from St. Paul,” Carlson said during a recent phone interview. “And I just adore the people here. So I am very excited to be working with the people that I have hired, they all, they all seem so wonderful.”

Carlson said during the interviewing process everyone seems so excited that Michaels is joining the community.


“So this is new and exciting for everybody,” she said. “And what I think happens is that everybody wants to be part of that excitement. And I expect that the excitement isn't going to stop.”

Carlson said she expects to carry that momentum through the grand opening in early April and continue it with the retailer’s customers, known as makers, with their product and by sharing ideas. Michaels own vision is built on the company’s stated belief that anyone can make things and they are on a mission “to inspire and encourage everyone to unleash his or her inner maker.”

In Baxter, the Michaels store is opening in the former OfficeMax store next to Target, just off Clearwater Road and within shouting distance from Highway 371 and the Dellwood Drive service road.

“We do have a different format with this store,” Carlson said.

The store design is what Michaels calls a small format store. In the case of the store here, that format fits within the smaller building provided by the former OfficeMax space. It’s a bit smaller than shoppers may be familiar with from a Michaels store, but the smaller format size is also opening up in different locations and communities. The Baxter store will include the custom framing. There will be self-checkouts with one staffed register. The self-checkouts are in about 300 Michaels stores in the U.S. and growing. There are about 10-15 small format stores in the country.

“I think what's great about the small format stores is it enables us to get into some of these markets like Baxter that wouldn't be able to support a bigger store so that's definitely a plus,” said Rachel Petersen, head of corporate and product communications at Michaels.

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“I think it's going to be a really good add to the stores that we have up here already,” Carlson said. “We're going to be able to give people a lot more options with the crafting that people like to do, especially after COVID people kind of got into the crafting a lot more and now they can come in and touch and feel it versus ordering it online. So I think that's going to be a benefit. And then our staff, my staff, I'm super excited because we are going to be the makers’ helpers when they come in.”

While the store won’t have a dedicated classroom, plans are in place to utilize part of the space for activities on the weekends and during the holidays. A benefit Carlson sees in that format is making those activities even more visible to shoppers who may want to be involved when they see it in action. Carlson said whether customers just need some googly eyes or are looking for a project to do, there will be something waiting for them.


Michaels calls its in-store experiences Make Breaks and keeps a list of classes and events on a landing page on its website. With the in-store classes, participants can learn from someone who is versed in the topic and have materials provided. Michaels also features online classes for those who want to attend virtually. And it notes in-store events also include “quick and simple crafts” for kids and adults.

Options may include a watercolor workshop, wood burning, paint pouring, yarn, seed bead weaving, drawing and more with classes available that incorporate technology or are aimed for small businesses, food, or seasonal crafting and more. Classes may have a cost, about $40 for featured in-store experiences, and others online are free.

Self-checkout at a Michaels store
A self-checkout at a Michaels store.
Contributed / Michaels

Michaels will offer online order pickup and curbside pickup so busy people who may have kids or pets in the vehicle or don’t want to deal with the weather, will be able to shop without leaving their car.

“So that's always such a convenience,” Carlson said.

So what sets Michaels apart from competitors, both existing and on the horizon in the lakes area?

“I think there's also a big difference in sort of the values that Michaels has as a brand compared to some of our competitors, we really are focused on being as inclusive and welcoming as possible, right, we believe that we exist to empower every maker to bring their creative dreams to life, no matter what walk of life, they come from, what they believe, or what they want to make,” Petersen said. “So I think that's also kind of a point where, you know, we see people wanting to shop with brands that they believe in and that they believe stand for the same things that they do. So I think that that's another big differentiator for us.”

The Michaels Companies also own multiple brands that allow them to collectively provide arts, crafts, framing, floral, home décor, and seasonal merchandise to hobbyists and do-it-yourself home decorators, the company reported.

Carlson, originally from Duluth, has been working in the Twin Cities for about 27 years. She’s been with Michaels for 16 years and has worked as a store manager at three other locations. Moving up to the lakes area was a goal for Carlson, so she said she was grateful for the store opening here.


Carlson said she’s only been in one other small format store like Baxter’s but the size also makes it easy to access.

“It's very sleek,” Carlson said. “It's very organized. I really like it. It's a really neat look.”

A look at at an inside of a Michaels store
The Michaels store in Baxter will be a small format store, which gives the company options to open in smaller communities.
Contributed / Michaels

Petersen said the smaller stores mean a little bit less shelf space but the newer format really focuses the assortment so the store carries the most popular goods and items with the full assortment available online. Shoppers can order online and pick up at curbside.

“The actual in-store experience is so much more focused and efficient for both the customer and I think the team members,” Petersen said.

Michaels also recently added a crafting podcast and launched a private label credit card with 9% in rewards for cardholders, which is tied to its existing rewards program. Michaels defines its customer in several ways as a creative person — teachers, parents, makers and artists — and as a family or friend group who want to get-together for a baking experience or a craft night, and the holiday shopper looking for decorations and gifts. Petersen said their customer is anyone who is interested in exploring their creativity or passing it along to others.

“I would just reiterate how truly excited we are to be joining the community,” Petersen said. “I know Rhonda is building an awesome team. And that grand opening event that we'll have in early April will be super fun. We've done a few of those so far. And the communities have really loved them that we've gone into with them. So there'll be some freebies and give away some demos and some other activities.”

Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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