A BEAUTIFUL HOG SHED
By Joanie Buettgen Copyright 2010
Even as a small child, Claire Baxter had a big dream. Her vision was to own her own business. The Hog Shed is now a reality as she celebrates her fifth year in her establishment.
The Hog Shed is located just down County Road 1 just south of Highway 7 in Lester Prairie, Mn. Visiting this quaint, rural home décor shop is not a problem for the women who came by the carload to shop the Hog’s Shed wares and explore the grounds. For those who might question the long trek out to the country, Baxter has a quick answer.
“It’s a pretty drive in the country, said Baxter, “with fun shopping, relaxing gardens, and great atmosphere…everyone has fun and leaves with a smile on their face.”
A large white sign points the way on the highway, followed by Gerbera daisies that stand tall against the old, metal mailbox that welcomes you right in to the driveway.
Many women, like Baxter, have thought about starting their own business but there always seem to be road blocks in the way.
“I’ve always wanted to own my business,” said Baxter. “This is affordable because it’s on our property, and my husband Ken could do the handiwork. I’ve always been a collector and I had lots of stuff. I knew if I cleaned it out, I could get it ready, and I wanted it to be my own.”
As shoppers got out of their vehicles on a typical day this summer the temperature was a hot, eighty-five degrees. The ‘shed’ was having its July sale. Many groups of women gathered hoping to find uncommon and wonderful treasures for home and garden. What they found were: white picket fences, overflowing window boxes, cushioned swings, and cast iron pigs that welcome everyone.
Even with the heat, and many gals in the store, the perspiration beads on Baxter’s face did not distract her. Her customers always come first. The soft sweet tone of her voice is comforting to them as they discuss their latest discovery.
In addition, Baxter often helps a co-worker at the register with a calming voice that is always present. The atmosphere is relaxing with background music that soothes her clients. They can also enjoy a glass of fresh lemonade followed by key lime dip to munch on.
This country enterprise is unique to other businesses, “It’s open only four days a month,” said Baxter. “I keep everything fresh and new, and it changes every month, I keep it seasonal.”
There are always interesting and funny finds for those vintage collectors too. From those junk market gals, to the estate sale gurus, anyone can find her own treasure.
Though Baxter is calm today, she’s had her share of comical moments. “During a photo shoot we had a thunderstorm and tornados,” said Baxter. “We ran around with garbage bags on trying to look professional. The next day was gorgeous, which was the first day of my sale.”
On a recent summer shopping spree with her granddaughter, Shirley Wass of Hutchinson commented, “This shop is unique and it’s fun. When you get to my age you don’t need more stuff. Here you can get many ideas, and then you can buy them.”
Sometimes a furniture piece can hold a treasure. Baxter enjoys the hunt, “I love taking a piece and sanding it down, then I try to see the history behind it. I love it when they pull up in the vehicle with a junker’s dream inside. I’ve already decided how cool everything is going to look.”
As Baxter stood beside her register, she knew it was a special day. Not wanting to be away from her customers, she wandered her shop and discussed special pieces that she loves and in turn the women tell her what they love about it. Several ladies couldn’t wait to peek into some corner cubbies hoping to spot a rare find. Upon further examination they were not disappointed. Many individual style items were: cast iron pigs tied with ribbon, vintage purses, softly scented candles and antique mirrors.
In addition to her bustling shop, there’s that special attention to detail that is evident in every spot. That’s what makes this cozy, country cottage so appealing. It’s this personal connection that keeps her clients coming back for more, and many travel from as far away as Wisconsin.
Browsing the cottage, shoppers will notice vintage restored chairs, many unique gifts, and outside perennial gardens.
Baxter invites her guests to linger, and sit in the yellow wrought iron lawn chairs that are close by the gardens. Strolling the grounds on the many mulched paths, directs shoppers to the other buildings on her property. When you enter each building you notice the familiar welcome sign that hangs above each entrance.
Many visitors are interested in history, and country homesteads are no exception.
“Well, the building is a hog shed,” said Baxter. “It was built in 1950…it was a wooden building first. I had the fun job of cleaning it up, and when people couldn’t find me they would say, ‘She’s in the hog shed,’ and everyone remembers it.”
If you’re looking for beautiful gardens you’re sure to find many at the shed. “They’re mostly perennials,” said Baxter. “They came from my mother-in-law. I love shrub roses and fern peonies too.”
Sometimes friends are just out for a pleasurable day. “It’s fun for them to come in and browse with girlfriends,” said Baxter, “and it’s challenging to find the right piece for their home.”
Finally, Baxter had this note to share, “I love what I do, and also, The Hog Shed is not what you expect, you’ll be surprised. It’s a warm country setting that invites you to linger, to relax and have fun.”
As a group of shoppers leave The Hog Shed, they are sent on their way with a, “Bye now,” from Baxter.
Joanie Buettgen is a columnist for the Carver County News in Watertown, MN, where she has lived for more than 25 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or her Blog: https://joanie19.wordpress.com