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Stay awhile at La De Da -- Gift shop aims for local goods

Those who dropped by La De Da Gifts and Décor late last year got a bit of a surprise.

Instead of going inside to find a completely new business, they would see Ladies Unique owner Deb Strozyk or manager Kim Samuelson were behind the counter.

"We did a business model change, and made it a gift and décor store," Strozyk said.

It wasn't a difficult change to go from a clothing store to a gift shop.

"In 1999, I put gifts downstairs and started out at Shady Hollow Flea Market," Strozyk said. "So it was a real easy transition. We just moved the clothes and moved the gifts upstairs."

There didn't seem to be any complaints from regulars about the change in strategy.

"A lot of customers who had been Ladies Unique customers have been real positive about the change," Samuelson said.

"And they still get to see our smiling faces," Strozyk said. "That totally confuses them, because a lot of people expect it to be different."

Any change along Washington piques potential customers' interests.

"That alone generates a lot of activity when something changes from last year," Strozyk said of changing the front of the store.

What used to be the gift section downstairs is now a clearance section.

"There is also some log furniture, which is locally made," Strozyk said.

La De Da just doesn't cater to local shoppers or tourists. Strozyk said she gets a good mix of both that come through the doors.

Sameulson said she sees men shop as well -- breaking a stereotype that only women shop at gift and décor stores.

The store stocks varied items. It's hard to tell what will be there day in and day out, because of Strozyk's buying habits.

There are a couple of general items that the store always carries.

"It's food items, home décor, cards and candles," Strozyk said.

It's hard to go home empty handed, Samuelson said.

"We have something for everyone," she said.

Finding local items is important to Strozyk, and she looks hard for them.

"I like to find Minnesota-made items," she said. "But it's difficult. When I find something, I do buy it."

The uniqueness of the store is what sets it apart from larger chain stores, where you might get everything in one place, but it doesn't have a warm feeling to it.

"It has a lot of character to it," Strozyk said of La De Da. "People have to see it to appreciate it.

"I've had people come in the door and go 'Ahh' because there is so much stuff. And it's not crowded."

Customers aren't put in a rush to shop either. In fact, browsing is encouraged, but with one caveat.

"You have to read the cards out loud," Strozyk said.

La De Da Gifts and Décor is located at 831 Washington Ave. Call 847-2497 for info.