Spotlight On: Shopping Spots in Bemidji, Minnesota

School has started, sweater weather is imminent, and pumpkin spice everything seems to be rolling out.  If you are planning to head up North later this season to check out fall colors, stop by Bemidji.

Lake Bemidji

Lake Bemidji

There was recently a major renovation to a building on the Bemidji State University campus that I’ve had the pleasure of working on (and learning from) over the past few years.  Part of the construction process includes a walk through to ensure things were installed as designed and I was tasked with the electrical walk through.

Checking receptacles and luminaires in a restroom.

Checking receptacles and luminaires in a restroom.

It’s a 3 hour and 40 minute drive from Minneapolis to Bemidji and the project gave me a hefty amount of square feet to cover, so I knew I’d be needing more than one day.  I asked social media to give me suggestions on where to eat and what to see in my down time.  Other than Paul and Babe, because that was a given.  

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox 

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox 

Recommendations from social media included Bemidji Brewing, Bar 209, Tutto Bene, and Keg N Cork

One of the nice things about Bemidji is how close everything is to each other.  My hotel was near the BSU campus, and Paul and Babe were an easy .9 mile walk (much of it along the lake) from campus…and also about 2 blocks from all the food recommendations from Twitter and the spots on the Downtown Bemidji shopping map.  

Downtown Bemidji shopping map by  Emily Krueger Illustration .

Downtown Bemidji shopping map by Emily Krueger Illustration.

It may or may not be common knowledge that I hate driving (but mostly parking), so after the ~4 hour drive up to Bemidji from Minneapolis, I opted to take cabs or walk to campus and around town.  Huge thank you to Bemidji Cab for being responsive, reliable, and for taking credit cards.  

I got to campus and worked until I couldn’t stand it anymore.  Luckily, the sun was only barely setting and I still had time for my photo op!  A lovely couple from Pennsylvania caught me awkwardly trying to fit Paul and Babe in the background of a selfie and came to my assistance. 

Afterwards, I walked to Bemidji Brewing and had the Summer IPA. 

Summer IPA at Bemidji Brewing.  A well deserved beer after a long day.  

Summer IPA at Bemidji Brewing.  A well deserved beer after a long day.  

People in Bemidji were very welcoming and laid back.  I had a great conversation with the gal working behind the bar in the taproom, who also recommended Bar 209.  I grabbed a glass of water from the cooler and that’s where I saw the handy Downtown Bemidji map.

On my way to Bar 209, I passed by Chocolates Plus and stopped in.  Bemidji residents are very, very friendly and I had an fun conversation with the enthusiastic staff at Chocolates Plus.  They had a variety of house made truffles and fudge.  I picked up a spicy jelly and peanut butter truffle and their Aztec (chile-chocolate) truffle.  Also, obviously could not resist the milk chocolate Babe the Blue Ox truffle: 

Babe the Blue Ox truffle from  Chocolates Plus

Babe the Blue Ox truffle from Chocolates Plus

After the quick detour, I started to notice all the thrift stores, boutiques, and gift shops with surprisingly appealing displays.  They were all closed for the night, unfortunately, so I made my way to dinner.

I will say that the food at Bar 209 was good - the scorpion sauce they served was actually spicy, and not just Minnesota spicy.  

Chicken sandwich with fontina cheese and "scorpion sauce".

Chicken sandwich with fontina cheese and "scorpion sauce".

The long day on my feet tired me out so I went straight back to my hotel to indulge in my favorite guilty pleasure - Food Network shows.  

I got up early the next day to make sure I had enough time to finish my walk through before the building was too crowded with students and to make sure I beat traffic back down to Minneapolis.  I finished earlier than anticipated and had time to stop by a few shops before heading back.

 

Kelsey's "As You Like It" Jewelry

Necklaces by Michael Kelsey.  I love the cut out designs on some of them that can be seen through the stones. 

Necklaces by Michael Kelsey.  I love the cut out designs on some of them that can be seen through the stones. 

Michael Kelsey's jewelry has had a presence in Bemidji for over 40 years.  He is based in Bemidji and the store features some other local jewelers, as well as other brands.  What struck me about their selection is that everything is fair trade/ethically sourced.  They also offer custom pieces, hence the "As You Like It" slogan.  

I swear I am not obsessed with Paul and Babe, they just seem so iconically Bemidji. 

I swear I am not obsessed with Paul and Babe, they just seem so iconically Bemidji. 

Pearl jewelry on the sales table.  Love the beaded structure on those earrings.

Pearl jewelry on the sales table.  Love the beaded structure on those earrings.

 

Morell's Chippewa Trading Post

From the outside, the Chippewa Trading Post looks like a tourist trap.  And inside, there are a lot of the gift shop keychains, salt and pepper shakers, and other trinkets and tokens you'd expect *cough, cough, Paul and Babe merchandise*.  But they also had a lot of copper, agate, gemstone, and beaded jewelry made by local (many Native) artists.    

The bright gems against bold shapes made these pendants really interesting.

The bright gems against bold shapes made these pendants really interesting.

I may be easily distracted by sparkly things.  Love those red and black earrings with the opalescent stone in the middle.  Also, there are buttons that rotate the racks in the jewelry cases so you can see everything without having to crouch over.  

I may be easily distracted by sparkly things.  Love those red and black earrings with the opalescent stone in the middle.  Also, there are buttons that rotate the racks in the jewelry cases so you can see everything without having to crouch over.  

 

Urbanesque

Urbanesque definitely had an Anthropologie feel.  From the shabby-chic furniture,  "found" light fixtures, and even to the styles of clothing.  There were a lot of cute things, including this plaid jacket, faux leather clutches, and a rack or so of plus size styles.  

Inside Urbanesque in Bemidji.

Inside Urbanesque in Bemidji.

What I really like about Urbanesque is that they carry Krochet Kids and other socially conscious brands.  The Krochet Kids tags are all hand signed by the person who made it and you can trace where your clothes are coming from.  

 

Urban Treasures

Urban Treasures thrift store (108 Third St NW 56601) was not listed on the shopping map, but from what I can tell is a new store.  There aren't a lot of fancy decorations and the lighting is a little stark, but they find a way to repurpose preowned clothing, and part of their sales go right back into the Bemidji community.  The store owners give part of the proceeds from donated items to the Bemidji School District lunch program.  

The items are in great condition and there are a variety of sizes for men, women, and children.  Not everything is my style, but I did pick up some fabulous colored jeans.  I'm no a stranger to colored denim and had cobalt, red, and grey pairs of Old Navy Rockstars a few years back.  Thrifting is a great way to reduce textile waste and update for fall without spending a lot of money.  

Yes, they are purple.  Yes, that's my favorite color.  No, I'm not sorry. 

Yes, they are purple.  Yes, that's my favorite color.  No, I'm not sorry. 

The pricetag on these ZanaDi purple pants?  $4.75! 

The pricetag on these ZanaDi purple pants?  $4.75! 

 

Other stores I visited included Yellow Umbrella, which had a lot of plaid and flannel, and Lucette Boutique, which had a lot of super cute/girly decorations inside.  

There's a phase two to the project I'm working on, so I'll be back in Bemidji and plan to check out other shops, both on the shopping guide and not.