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New owners at Trophy House in DL

The new owners plan to expand the signage part of the business. NATHAN BOWE/TRIBUNE

The new owners of the Trophy House are putting their own stamp on the business, keeping existing services while expanding the signage end of things.

And why not? Eric and Jolene Tulius met while at the Detroit Lakes technical college in the signage and graphic design program in 1996-97.

“The Trophy House is pretty much running the way it has for years,” said Jolene. “We’re introducing some things that Eric is able to offer.”

The couple purchased the business from Merlin and Roxy Engum in October. They learned about the business being for sale through the youth hockey program, where the Engums ran the concession stand.

That’s right. That means the couple have children. Three of them, to be precise: Bailey, 14, Brooke, 12 and Kylie, 8.

The bulk of the business involves awards ­­-- trophies, medals, ribbons, engravings, plaques and that kind of thing.

Another 30 percent involves signage, and the other 10 percent involves promotional items like pens, T-shirts and hats. “If you can put your logo on it, we can do it,” Eric said.

Signage is the service that has most changed. In the past, the shop specialized in small signs, Eric said. “Now we do everything from hand-lettering to backlit signs,” he added. That includes estimates, fabrication and installation.

Eric did the signs at the 59er and at the new Miguel’s Mexican restaurant.

The couple said they are fortunate to be able to rely on the experience of longtime employees Pat Holmgren and Sue Johnson.

“We do a lot in here, and we have a lot of repeat customers,” Eric said. “The people before us have done a great job of developing the business. A lot of the time people call and say ‘just give us what we did last year.’”

Business comes from around the area, and as far away as Oregon and the University of Minnesota outstate campuses.

Business also comes in all shapes and sizes, from big jobs to helping boat owners who need state registration numbers for their boats.

The competition these days comes mostly from the Internet.

“You pretty much get what you pay for,” said Jolene, who admits to being a bit of a perfectionist. She talks about a niece who won a trophy that was made and shipped by an online source.

“The plate was on crooked, and it was plastic instead of metal,” she said. “Stuff like that would never have walked out our door.”

Eric worked for Six Flags Entertainment Co. for 15 years, serving in various roles: project manager, logo development, staging sets. He designed a 220-room indoor waterpark motel.

The family lived in Oklahoma, outstate New York and Ohio while he pursued his career.

The Trophy House, he said, “is a good fit for us.” In New York, Eric added, he had a friend who owned a gift and engraving shop.

“I was intrigued by it,” he said. “He was, in a roundabout way, teaching me the gift and engraving business.”

Both Eric and Jolene have Minnesota roots. He is originally from Winona and she is from Hinckley. His parents live in Wisconsin and her parents live in Detroit Lakes.

Her father, Scott McAllen, is a retired state trooper and her mother, Char McAllen, is a para at Rossman Elementary School.