Lundrigans Clothing of Walker reopened their doors June 28 after just under six months of being closed. The store had been closed since the Portage Brewing fire Jan. 6 due to air quality complications.

The morning started with loyal customers lined up at the door, waiting for the 10 a.m. opening. Proudly wearing his Lundrigans 80th anniversary T-shirt, Joe Sherman stood outside watering the planters he and wife Barb had given to Nancy Freeman, Lundrigans owner.

“Nancy has done so much for this community and given so much to others, it’s the least we could do for her,” Sherman said.

This was one of many of the well-wishes that Freeman received that day, with flowers, plants and gifts arriving from community members, vendors and friends.

“With Strong Roots Comes Regrowth,” was the tagline for the re-opening of Lundrigans Clothing, which has been in business in the same location since 1937. Roots were also added to bottom of the Lundrigans tree.

“It just seemed to fit for us, with the fire, and thinking of regrowth and rebuilding, it really is the strong roots we have in the community that kept us going,” Freeman commented.

Much of the past six months was spent in air quality testing and follow-up remediation for the smoke toxins that were in the store. It wasn’t until the last three weeks prior to opening that staff could enter the store. Painting, construction and cleaning took place for three weeks, ending just before 9 p.m. the night before opening.

Among many of the fixtures ordered to replace what was removed from the store, Freeman acquired 1,000 feet of barnwood from Barnwood Revisited, a company in southern Minnesota that repurposes old barns. The barnwood, now in its final resting spot on the walls of Lundrigans, was from a barn built in 1895.

The most notable change in the restoration of the store is the shoe display area. Now fondly called “The Lundrigans Living Room,” this space was reconfigured and features a fireplace donated by Gary Wilkening, a cowhide rug, a gorgeous sliding barn door and comfy furniture purchased locally at Frizzell Furniture.

With the store under construction, inventory that normally arrives from vendors slowly over several weeks all had to arrive in one week. Volunteers and staff unpacked hundreds of boxes of merchandise, got it onto hangers and tagged  in a matter of days. Other volunteers helped clean, wipe down racks and organize the store.

Freeman herself unlocked and opened the door to her customers Friday morning, tearfully receiving hugs and praises. The store was filled with hundreds of customers in the first few hours of opening.

Supportive vendors of Lundrigans sent merchandise to give away: Sanuk shoes, Kavu bags, Tentree hats and wallets, dresses and scarves from Aventura, men’s shirts from Ecoths, and Hydroflasks were just some of the items that were given away every 15 minutes. Additionally, three grand prizes of a Duluth Pack bag, Pendleton blanket and a $100 Lundrigans gift card were given away Sunday.

Among the many excited customers, Mary (Lundrigan) Amel, daughter of Ed and Mabel Lundrigan, who originally started the store, was the first person to make a purchase during the grand re-opening. Looking down from behind the register is a large framed portrait of her parents, standing at the counter of Lundrigans during their ownership.

“Nancy has had a powerful heart under the most hellish [circumstances] the last six months ... She’s kept the dream of my parents alive and created a vision of [her] own,” said Amel on Facebook on a photo of her and Freeman during the store reopening.

Lundrigans Clothing now resumes their regular business hours of Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition to Walker, there are also locations in Nisswa, Crosslake and Dorset.

Freeman would like to publicly thank the following people for their generosity, dedication, support and last-minute favors and saving graces: Dan Ihrke of City Sanitary; Dave Strandlie of Dave’s Painting; Gary and Deb Wilkening of Wilkening Fireplace; Kory Nelson and crew of Bay Carpet; the three-man building crew of Jon Thoma, Joe Rosen and Ryan Bresnahan; Mark Olson and crew from Olson Electric; friends at Walker Building Center and Walker Home Center; Tim from Barnwood Revisited; Barb and Joe Sherman of Barb’s Greenhouse; Greg Peltier of Next Innovations; Sonya Wolf of That’s Just Dandy Candles; Tony and Patti Doughty; Susan and Bill Yarrington; Nancy Bruns, Cindy Lee, Tamara and Mike Pederson; Tom Anderson, Greg Gap, the Dahl Family; Bruce Edwards, Teah from TJ’s Floral and Gifts; the F/X Fusion Team; Dawn Anderson, Laurie, Molly and the friends at Lake Shirts; Steve and Nancy Sorenson; Gary and Theresa Bilben; Portage Brewing; Family Safety Network; Brittany at Brittany’s Floral; Brandy and Theo Ringle of Bensons; Cathy and Jim Stephenson; Roger and Jamie Voeller; Kevin and Monica Voeller; friends at First National Bank; Cindy and Roxie at the Leech Lake Area Chamber of Commerce; our pals at Statements Showroom; Susan and Tony Freeman and Nancy’s four granddaughters; Corieann McLaughlin; Betty and Kevin Pederson; and Kathy Bieloh.

During all that went on, these friends kindly treated us to lunch and drinks: Dawn Anderson of Lucky Moose; Erin Haefele of Green Scene; Ami Ysteboe of Piggy BBQ; the staff of Bank Forward; Kim Walters of Wine Down; Tamara Pederson; and Mike and Melanie Rice.

Most importantly, thanks go out to the dedicated staff of Lundrigans Clothing who hung in there with Nancy through it all: Ione, Christina, Nancy B, Melanie, Lynette, Patti, Monica, Patty, Marilyn and Deb.

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