When Osseo’s the Vintage Studio was being brought to life, owners Erica Boehme and Jennifer Stricker were carpooling to work together, “talking crafts for a couple of hours daily,” says Boehme. The duo discovered its mutual love for all things vintage and crafty and realized it had serious potential.
“We met working together at Concordia University in St. Paul,” Stricker says. “[Boehme] sold a popular stamp line on the side, and I’m a super crafty person, so we had a mutual love of crafting. After not too long, I found out her and her then-husband only had one car, and she was trying to take the bus from Crystal to St. Paul. Just a little detour and I could swing by to pick her up on my way to the university, so that started us carpooling.”
As their friendship grew, Boehme and Stricker realized that they had potential to make their shared passion more than just a discussion in the car. “We met up with a super fun couple that were opening an ‘upcycled’ shop in Carver and decided to join them in repurposing items we found at thrift stores, garage sales, flea markets and estate sales,” Stricker says. “We did that for a couple years and found it was too hard to keep up the inventory while we both worked full-time.” (The duo also worked with shops in Zimmerman and White Bear Lake.)
With Boehme and Stricker still working full-time jobs, on top of running the Vintage Studio, balancing their lives can sometimes be difficult, but they are grateful for their “day” jobs, as they provide them with the skills necessary to operate their side business. “Jennifer is a graphic designer by day, working on layout, pamphlets and other visual education pieces for Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance,” Boehme says. As an inventory analyst at Sportsman’s Guide, Boehme is “able to round out the other important side of the business by managing the finances, sourcing, inventory and forecasting for the Vintage Studio,” she says, adding that her background in business operations and management also gives her a leg up.
“As with any small business, there are lots of roles to cover and things to do,” Boehme says. “Orders have to be processed almost daily, inventory is constantly assessed, and the production schedule is updated accordingly.” The women have a lot to juggle, but it’s “satisfying when it’s done well,” she says. Stricker agrees. “Balance of our day jobs and the Vintage Studio is tricky,” she says. “I think it helps we are both super driven people and neither of us like to be bored.”
“The Vintage Studio is a small business that strives to capture the Minnesota spirit and fun in great products that can be gifted and shared with friends and family,” Boehme says. The duo started working at craft fairs, then began working with shops locally to learn the ropes of the business and then moved onto selling wholesale. After getting the hang of running its own business, the duo was able to develop its first towel, Gramma’s Hotdish Recipe. The recipe was passed down from Stricker’s family, “and then [my] 91-year-old gramma hand wrote the recipe out for the artwork used on the flower sack towel.” Boehme says. The intimacy of the design is what the Vintage Studio is all about. “[The towel] combined both [our] love of vintage and family all in one. This started a collection of towels that focused on Minnesota-themed designs,” she says.
The Vintage Studio utilizes Minnesota’s quirks for an audience, who knows and loves them. Additional towel designs feature sayings that native Minnesotans (and those who relocated here) will love and appreciate. “Some have a little sass,” Boehme says, citing the In This Kitchen It’s Called Hotdish towel, while others celebrate Minnesota’s lexicon of uffda or you “betcha.”
The Only in Minnesota towel gives a cheeky nod to vernacular differences between Minnesota and other surrounding states, highlighting the difference between calling soft drinks pop or soda, saying casserole or hot dish and, of course, the highly debated game of duck, duck, goose versus duck, duck, gray duck.
The Vintage Studio’s wooden spoon product line, which took off last year, has been featured in local retailers, such as Patina (locations listed on the website) and GoodThings in Maple Grove. In 2018, it also took its business outside Minnesota, launching in Wisconsin (in December) and Iowa (this month). Out-of-state products include similar styles as the Minnesota counterparts, with state-specific options. The duo also launched its “much anticipated” Lefse recipe towel to celebrate Minnesota’s much-loved Norwegian flatbread. The towel is similar to the hot dish towel that started it all, almost seven years later.
Thanks to its success, the Vintage Studio was able to move from a 400-square-foot space into a 1,200-square-foot studio in Osseo last spring, “gaining much needed production and storage space,” Boehme says. “We didn’t know we always wanted to open a studio, but like I said, it’s in our nature,” Stricker says. “We’re both entrepreneurs at heart, so naturally it evolved.”
While you can’t pop in to give Boehme and Stricker a visit whenever you want, the studio is open for special occasions, such as Osseo Days and Small Business Saturdays. To purchase the Vintage Studio’s products, customers can order through its website or support one of the 50 businesses, which carries its products in stores, but Boehme adds “appointments can be made if necessary.”