Summers in the lakes area inspired a customer to move to the other side of the sales counter.
Donna Winge, owner of Just Casuals on Highway 371 North, decided to get into the outdoor furniture business in Minnesota after buying the Casualine product for her winter home in Florida.
Target customers cover all age groups who want to accessorize a deck or three-season porch. Winge said she is the only dealer in this line in the state. After opening a business in Crosslake in 1998, Winge moved the business just north of Brainerd in May.
"I decided to come to 371 just because of the population," Winge said. The highway, with plenty of flowing traffic even on a weekday afternoon, was readily visible through Winge's open door earlier this week.
Winge lived in Plymouth and has been coming north to a lake home in Crosslake for about 20 years. When the company she worked for was bought out, Winge decided to make a change and went to Florida. When pool furniture was needed, it opened a door that would lead much farther north.
"We were looking around down there and the light bulb went off," Winge said.
A few models came north as a trial for the summer. The response confirmed what Winge thought would be a successful seasonal job. Now summers in Minnesota provide a business purpose as well.
Winge said the product is a step above the discount varieties as far as pricing but below some of the more expensive lines. Four chairs and a 42-inch table costs $636. Customers pick out their fabric, which tends to stay in stock for five to 10 years allowing later additions that match earlier sets. If the right piece is not in stock, ordering takes three weeks or less, Winge said. Inventory includes weather ready lamps.
Cushions can be clipped to chairs to keep them in the correct position and the fabric is designed to allow water to flow through creating a quick dry time and no need to bring cushions in for the night if the customer wants to leave them out.
Winge said she knows it takes up to five years to build a new business and there is plenty of competition from Home Depot to Homecrest.
"I find competition is good," she said. "When people choose your brand, they are choosing it because they believe in it."
An interesting glimpse at lakes area tastes has a putty color furniture more popular here than with the national average, which says white is most popular. White is also the color that Twin Cities residents have picked for furniture. Winge said sales have included shipments to Arizona and Missouri.
The outdoor furniture comes in a variety of styles from coach to love seat, glider to the tall seats with bar sets. The Poly Vinyl Cholride plastic pipe furniture is designed for its ease of upkeep. The PVC plastic also comes in child sizes.
"Everyone's so busy today -- it's one more thing you don't have to work on," Winge said.
This week with the outdoor living expected for a long Fourth of July holiday weekend, Winge was hoping for more sun.
"When it's cold and rainy outside people don't think about their outdoor furniture."
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