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Progress Edition 2022: Crosslake Town Square businesses thrive on camaraderie

Businesses band together to bring people to their area of town

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Businesses line a street in Crosslake Town Square, shown in July 2022.
Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal
We are part of The Trust Project.

CROSSLAKE — There’s camaraderie among businesses in Crosslake Town Square, and business owners are embracing it.

“In town square, every single business works with every business. We work as a team,” said Catharine Funk, owner of Encompassing Beauty, which she describes as “the Menards for women.”

Her store, open for the past five years, focuses on beauty and fashion, offering clothing, shoes and accessories along with a full-service Aveda concept salon.

“It’s really cool how we work together in town square to make sure every niche is filled, and there’s no animosity,” she said.

Crosslake Town Square

Crosslake Town Square has a variety of businesses in their own unique spaces, including longtimers Crosslake Drug, Rafferty’s Pizza, Studio Posh Salon and Spa, Larson Group Real Estate/Keller Williams Realty Professionals, and Crosswoods Development.

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We’re here to complement the local businesses and the way things are done without competing with them or competing with the way things are done.
Jackie Spencer

Others are Lakes Area Title, Key Wellness, Simply Rustic Floral Design, Lundrigan’s Clothing Outlet, Patriot Lakes Nutrition, the National Loon Center’s The Nest, Northland/Sotheby’s International Realty, Squirrelly Mama and Lakes Central Insurance.

There’s just one vacant building after the business owners retired.

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At the center of Crosslake Town Square is a park area with a gazebo, shown in July 2022.
Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal

In the center of town square is a big park with a gazebo and picnic tables. Bands sponsored by the Crosslake Ideal Lions Club draw a crowd to the park on summer Saturday nights when they play in the gazebo, and merchants offer fun for kids during summer with Big Fun Tuesday activities in the park.

You won’t lose track of time as a nostalgic clock tower stands on one side of the street. Town square offers public restrooms.

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This side of Crosslake Town Square features businesses and a clock tower, shown in July 2022.
Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal

A third phase is planned to be built, with some merchants hoping to bring distinctive shops and eateries to that part of Crosslake.

Squirrelly Mama

Much of the recent push for town square businesses to band together is credited to Jackie Spencer, who opened Squirrelly Mama a year ago and is passionate about bringing value to the community.

“She is every bit as squirrelly as her name,” said Melissa Krueger, who has owned Simply Rustic Floral Design for three years and caters to weddings, funerals, birthdays, anniversaries, dinner parties and all occasions. “She brought excitement. She motivates all of us to want to do all the things.”

Tim Valencia-Louden, who opened the health and wellness shop Patriot Lakes Nutrition in January — which he describes as a happy, healthy fast food restaurant alternative — calls Spencer a “firehouse.”

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He and others have a goal of driving traffic to town square and getting the community more involved in the square.

“We’re actually still back here and have so much to offer,” he said.

Jackie and Steve Spencer moved to Crosslake in 2019 with their family. They were looking for office space for their property management company, Crosslake Vacations, when Jackie toured a space at Crosslake Town Square.

“I just wanted an office space to be able to work without being bothered and to meet customers,” she said. “And then at that moment, I fell in love with a very, very unique building, and the park outside and what I felt it could be for families.

“I squirreled,” she said, and Squirrelly Mama opened a year ago in that building, along with an office for Steve and Crosslake Vacations.

The family received a warm welcome from businesses and customers from Day One.

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The Squirrelly Mama family includes, from left: Jackie and Steve Spencer, Autumn Anderson, and Brielle and Linkin Spencer.
Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal

The family boutique with an emphasis on custom and funny gifts, along with home decor, is what Spencer calls “a place where there’s something for everyone and everyone is welcome.”

The building’s unique layout boasts two fireplaces and a play area for children, including two of the three Spencer kids — Linkin, 8, and Brielle, 4. They also have daughter Ceyauna, 21.

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“My really big thing that I say all the time is ‘complement, not compete,’” Spencer said. “We’re here to complement the local businesses and the way things are done without competing with them or competing with the way things are done.”

She reiterates the importance of community.

“For me it was more about bringing the community together and adding value versus owning a store that is going to be retail all day, every day,” Spencer said. “That was never my mission. … For me, my heart is in the community portion of it, whether it’s chatting with my amazing customers or the paint nights, the craft days, the Big Fun Tuesdays that we’re bringing to the square. I like the community part of it. I feel fulfilled when I feel like I’m adding value to life in Crosslake.”

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Squirrelly Mama features a play space for kids while their parents shop, as shown in August 2022.
Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal

Spencer’s goal remains to draw the community to town square through events, do-it-yourself craft nights and unique, custom and personalized retail items at her store, such as baskets for real estate agents to hand out when someone buys a house.

“Building those connections, not just selling a pair of pants,” she said.

Future of Crosslake Town Square

Spencer relishes her role as cheerleader or team captain for Crosslake Town Square.

“I want to build something I can be proud of for my kids and add value to a community I love,” she said.

She sees Phase 3 — a third block of buildings — as another step focused on retail with a dream to see small shops and a coffee shop. She’d like to host a Kids Expo, similar to the Senior Expo in Crosslake but for youth.

She envisions The Legacy Gardens of Crosslake Town Square as a destination of its own with a play area and water element for kids, again not competing with amenities already offered in other parts of Crosslake.

The gardens are in the design stage in memory of Christine Sesin, the late daughter of Jim and the late Linnea Anderson, who are among the founders of Crosslake Town Square.

Spencer calls town square a hidden gem that’s making huge strides toward filling its great potential to add vast value to the community.

“We’re working hard to make it what it was always intended to be,” she said. “I’m excited to know where we’re headed.”

Others agree with her that Crosslake Town Square has a family of merchants who support each other.

“Crosslake really, in general, works together and that’s what makes Crosslake so special,” Funk said.

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Shown at Squirrelly Mama in August 2022 are, from back: Steve and Jackie Spencer, Autumn Anderson, and Linkin and Brielle Spencer.
Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal

Squirrelly Mama

  • Employees: One plus owners Jackie and Steve Spencer.
  • Interesting fact: The store name “Squirrelly Mama” came about because Jackie Spencer’s life is defined by her three children, and a former boss called her “Squirrel” because she was always doing 100 things. Plus, “People want to see what it is so they come in,” she said. “If you talk to me for five minutes you’ll see why it depicts me.”

She also designed her business logo that features a peony, her grandma’s favorite flower.

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Catharine Funk stands in her store, Encompassing Beauty, in Crosslake Town Square in August 2022.
Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal

Encompassing Beauty

  • Employees: Five.
  • Interesting fact: Owner Catharine Funk was one of the top five people to do permanent makeup in Minnesota.
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Melissa Krueger arranges flowers at her store, Simply Rustic Floral Design, in Crosslake Town Square in July 2022.
Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal

Simply Rustic Floral Design

  • Employees: One plus an independent contractor.
  • Interesting fact: Owner Melissa Krueger had zero experience in floral design before she opened her store.
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Tim Valencia-Louden owns Patriot Lakes Nutrition in Crosslake Town Square.
Contributed

Patriot Lakes Nutrition

  • Employees: One.
  • Interesting fact: His business name stems from being the USA Patriots in high school, as well as having the Patriots at the Pequot Lakes School District.

Nancy Vogt, editor, may be reached at 218-855-5877 or nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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