Stockholm, a new generation brings a town back to life

I was exploring the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River between St. Paul, Minnesota and La Crosse, Wisconsin to the south. I came across a fabulous little village called Stockholm. It is on Lake Pepin, which is a naturally occurring lake formed by a backup of water due to sediments from the Chippewa River just a tad downstream. Stockholm truly is a village tucked along the shores of the Mississippi. And what a delightful surprise it was. This town is a "must visit."

February 19, 2017

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I had no idea Stockholm existed. I had stayed at Lake City, Minnesota almost directly across from Stockholm, and was going to wander my way back to Wausau. I crossed over to Wisconsin at Wabasha and headed upstream. I then came upon Stockholm. What a terrific surprise.

In 1851 Swedish adventurer Erik Petterson climbed the bluff behind Stockholm, saw Lake Pepin spreading out before him, and declared it the ideal site for a settlement. It then became a stopover for immigrants and a thriving farming center. Both WWI and WWII negatively impacted the town. After WWII it virtually disintegrated as people moved to the cities.

Starting in the 1970’s, artists and urban outsiders began to trickle into the village and surrounding countryside, reviving old storefronts and homes and creating a vibrant cultural life. A new breed of entrepreneurs arrived on their heels, each attuned to the possibilities of a unique merchant community, responsive to the melding of Swedish heritage, natural beauty, and the hum of artistic activity. You'll see plenty of evidence of that here.

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My introduction to the village was the first sign of a town I saw, Stockholm Gardens, Nursery and Landscaping. Not only were the gardens beautiful, but the little house in the background drew me in. So I stopped. Stockholm Gardens was established in 1987 on an old farmstead located in Stockholm, Wisconsin.

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Stockholm Gardens is a product of the efforts of Beth Shide and Harley Cochran, Beth a native of North Dakota, Harley of Iowa. They met at the University of North Dakota Archeology Lab in 1982. They both wanted to start a family and agriculture-based business. Beth manages the nursery portion of Stockholm Gardens, and is a grower with an extensive knowledge of diverse perennial and annual cultivars and growing techniques. Harley works as a landscape contractor, and performs support tasks for the nursery.

Beth was there working when I stopped. The weather was heavily overcast with a mild sprinkle, but she walked me around and I she picked out a special host for me to take home. There was so much to see.

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I am a nut when it comes to barns, so I walked right by the small house which serves as the Garden Store and went straight to the barn behind it.

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Inside the barn were all kinds of planters and water feeders for the birds and other thirsty animals. I loved how colorful it was inside. In fact, the whole nursery was colorful, as was the entire town.

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You can see the edge of the barn on your left as we walked back toward the Garden Store. We have a magnificent garden of Hostas at home, so I asked Beth if she could find something no one in Wausau might have. She has 60 varieties. She picked one out for me and I was a hero when I landed back in Wausau.

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So here we are at the Garden Store. Let's take a look inside.


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Most certainly any garden enthusiast could likely spend quite a bit of time inside both the barn and the Garden Store, and likely an amazing amount of time viewing the plants outside.

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It now started to rain quite heavily, so I decided to leave. I kept heading upstream and came upon the small town center. But this time, it was raining cats and dogs, so I had to shoot my photos from inside my car after rolling down the window. As a result I did not get a chance to visit the stores, which is sad because they surely looked neat even in such a storm.

I'll take you by the places as I shot the photos. Because of the weather, I did not explore the side streets, which again was unfortunate. I remained on the main drag, the Great River Road, Hwy 35.

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On the left is the Hugga Bugga. In the center is a book store, and I don't know what if anything is inside the last building on the right.

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This is the Hugga Bugga. This store sells wonderful, luxurious yarn in all kinds of combinations. You can choose from alpaca, cashmere, bamboo, silk and wool. Brands like Noro, Araucania, Mirasol, Ella Rae, Debbie Bliss and Juniper Moon Farm are all inside.

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On the left is Savvy, which carries a large selection of fashion jewelry and women's accessories plus home decor. There is a garden area on the left which is where you enter. The door out front is for the Post Office to the right.

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My timing here was good. Are you seeing those storm clouds? This is the Stockholm Town Mutual Insurance Company! It insures farms, homes, and businesses in Buffalo, Dunn, Eau Claire, Pierce, Pepin, and St. Croix counties. Stockholm Town Mutual was organized in 1872 by a group of farmers to provide insurance coverage for themselves and their neighbors. There were no national insurance companies covering farmers in the 1870s. At that time only people living in cities could buy insurance. Therefore, individual farmers organized mutual insurance companies, such as Stockholm Town Mutual, which functioned as cooperative enterprises.

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Praise the Lord, Lena's Lucky Star. Full Bar-craft beers at Gelly's Pub inside which also boasts its awesome Bloody Marys and Margaritas. Homemade soups and dessert. Great burgers, cheese curds, daily, specials as local as the Lucky Star can get.

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This is the Stone Fern Gallery. It is for sale, but…I talked to Pat, the lady who owns it and she plans to open in the spring and stay open until some time as we approach winter, or she said, perhaps someone will buy it. But for now, the store is open and sells everything from hats, art, antiques, imports and garden décor. A delightful lady. If you would like to talk to her about buying the store, call Pat at (612) 845-6000.

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Sandy's Clothing and Art boasts timeless clothing, artisan accessories, innovative art & sassy "wear all day" shoes. At Sandy's they want you to "consider your clothing an art form." That is a terrific tag line.

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Now here I had to slide off on to a side street. Just could not pass this place up, even though the cats and dogs were really pouring down. So you want Swedish? This is Ingrebretsen's, since 1921, a Nordic Marketplace. They've been celebrating Scandinavian culture for 90 years. Food, home goods, clothing, craft and culture all in one.

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If you look up hotels for Stockholm, more likely than not you will be sent to the "name brands" 40 or more miles away. But here in the center of town is the Historic Stockholm Hotel, established in 1914. It can handle up to 16 guests, and is dog friendly. It is only one block from Lake Pepin.

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Stockholm Pie and General Store is the place to go to on the West Coast of Wisconsin for world famous pie, pot pies and savory pies to die for. "One of the 100 best places to eat" in the U.S. "roadfood guide." "One of the 53 best things we ate in 2012," Gourmet magazine. An amazing assortment of Wisconsin made treats, cheeses, wines, artisan brews and gifts fill the charming general store inside of the Pie Store.