AITKIN -- Tracy Repasky stepped inside the Scrapbook and More store in Aitkin to check out the supplies.
Colorful paper stacked neatly along the walls created one attraction while colorful ribbons etched with sayings and letters in bulk bins another.
"This is really a nice store," Repasky said. "You've just got stuff I haven't seen before."
Repasky, an admitted scrapbook store connoisseur, was in town away from a lake cabin for the afternoon. She said in her first trip to the Aitkin store she found items she had not seen in scrapbook stores closer to her Twin Cities residence.
They were words Dori McMillan enjoyed hearing. McMillan opened the store, her first, April 1 on Minnesota Avenue in Aitkin.
Letters in bulk allow customers to buy one icon at a time. The store includes volumes of colorful paper, stickers and three-dimensional items to add to scrapbooks, art projects or personalized cards. Brainerd Dispatch/Renee Richardson
Without a maternity leave that left her time to research markets for the store, McMillan said she does not believe it would have happened. Not a natural risk taker, McMillan said she had been considering the leap to store owner for a while. But it was after a scrapbook store opened in Grand Rapids, a market she had been considering, that she took the leap.
McMillan said she was thinking: "Someone else is going to do it in town so jump on my dream or quit talking about it."
Now she said Aitkin is the better fit, closer to home and where her two young children will go to school. Before the store became a reality, McMillan looked at demographics, traffic projections and startup costs and she interviewed other business owners. Her own background was in hotel and restaurant management and a job in training and development at Grand Casino.
She established a free frequent scrapbookers club that offers a punch card and discounts. The club helps keep note of new customers. McMillan said new people still come in every day.
"People from Baxter have come here," she said.
Scrapbook and More
Store opened April 1 on Minnesota Avenue in downtown Aitkin, across from Butler's and down the street from the Rialto Theater.
Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Store specializes in scrapbooking and card making supplies.
McMillan started scrapbooking about five years ago when a friend introduced her to the craft. Scrapbook stores have popped up recently in Little Falls and Pequot Lakes, joining existing business in Brainerd and Baxter among other locales. A hot hobby, the craft mixes family photos with accessories, color and journals to create a visual history of events commemorated on film. Scrapbook stores also carry supplies that appeal to card makers and other crafts.
"It's a very popular hobby or craft right now," McMillan said, adding she expects a cooling effect eventually, but not one that will end the interest. "I think people will always want to do something with their pictures."
The hobby has been fueled by a passion to pass images on to the next generation. But technology is changing quickly.
"Digital photography is changing the market drastically," McMillan said.
Store offerings include scrapbook and card making accessories, including colorful ribbons etched with sayings for a variety of occasions. Brainerd Dispatch/Renee Richardson
However, there are opportunities in the change. McMillan said the stereotypical scrapbook customer is a woman in her 30s or 40s who likes the hobby as a social interaction with friends. But she said there are others who prefer to work on their hobbies without the larger, more public interaction.
Scrapbook programs for computers allow hobbyists to create pages using digital photos, stickers and other accessories using a keyboard and mouse. McMillan plans to add a computer in her store's workshop area and to get a printer that will handle the 12 x12-inch pages standard in many scrapbooks. Classes to show people how to use the computer programs are also in the works.
McMillan said the future is likely to bring things not even thought of now into the hobby.
"Half the things in my store didn't exist five years ago," she said. "It's like any business -- you have to adjust to the market."
Opening a new business can be a daunting task. McMillan said business can be slower than hopes where classes attract five people versus 12. But she said she cannot complain about the business, which has kept her busier than a friend with a scrapbook store of her own suggested it might be.
She balanced being a scrapbook class teacher with clerk duties and demonstrator tasks along with creating advertising and business planning.
"It's an interesting juggle," she said. "If you don't do it, it doesn't get done with your own business. It's always on your mind."
McMillan said her goal is to have customers come in three years from now and say they still love the store and find it fun and fresh.
To create a different experience with her store, McMillan has created marathon sessions and supplied food and a massage therapist to do chair massages during the event. Cost to attend is $10. Other classes are free. And a workshop area, with tools, is open and free to use during store hours. Customers are welcome to ask for a demonstration or try something before they commit to buying it.
The store itself has large displays using McMillan's own family on the walls around the store in bright colors. McMillan said she did not want the store to be too cluttered, but wanted to create an inviting space.
"It's amazing how close it came to what we had in our minds," she said of the store's design.
Now she said success may be measured in another milestone -- when business has increased so much she has to hire an employee. For now she is enjoying mornings to let her young daughters sleep in before they have breakfast together. And, she said, heading into Aitkin to open her store has lost none of its appeal.
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.