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On Pens and Needles: Local scrapbooking/quilting retreat expands

Erlene Davis started up Pens and Needles Lakeside Retreat in 2006 after attending a scrapbooking retreat that left her feeling energized and happy. She says she now enjoys bringing that kind of happiness to the women who stay at her cozy 18-acre retreat.1 / 2
The wedding event center is a newly built facility on Pens and Needles Lakeside Restreat that will be available for summer weddings. This can be rented alone or with the entire property, including the house and 18-acres.2 / 2

When Erlene Davis and her husband moved to Detroit Lakes from Fargo in 2006, she had no idea she was about to stumble upon her dream.

"I went to a scrapbooking retreat, and when I came home I just felt...charged. Rejuvenated," said Davis, "I wanted to go back again, so I started to do research on places in Minnesota to do something like that, but there were only a few."

That's when Davis began pondering the idea of starting her own retreat.

Then one day, she drove from her place in Vergas past a property six and a half miles south on Highway 59.

It was a large log house with two separate residences separated by a garage.

"Grandma and Grandpa lived on one side, and the son lived on the other," Davis explained.

Davis bought the unique property and immediately transformed the large garage into a studio -- a retreat studio.

In a matter of only a few months, Davis had pursued a dream she says she didn't even know she had until then, and she did it with tremendous help from friends and family.

"Things happened so fast. I found this place in April; by August I had it, and by September I had people coming," said Davis, "I haven't had any doubts of any of it -- I just jumped in and said, 'let's go'."

Still working part time as a nurse's aid at Sanford Clinic in Detroit Lakes, Davis also runs Pens and Needles Lakeside full time.

The retreat draws groups of women from all over interested in scrapbooking and quilting, but Davis says it can be used for almost anything.

"I've had birthday parties, reunions, cookbook-making, sorority parties - whatever they want to do," said Davis, who keeps the two residences separated, allowing two groups to be there at a time.

One side, called 'Lakeside (The Delux)' sleeps 12 women and allows for usage of scrapbooking supplies and the studio.

The other side, called 'No Frills', is handicapped accessible and sleeps six, but the ladies must bring their own supplies and work on smaller tables.

Both sides have full kitchens.

"So the ladies can bring food and cook for themselves," said Davis, "And drink for themselves," she added, laughing.

Davis says over the past five years, the walls of Pens and Needles have heard a lot of giggles, stories, clapping, and singing.

"I have a group of North Dakota teachers who come here every year during their MEA break, and boy, can they sing!"

Davis says these retreat weekends bring women together and make them feel good, just by the uninterrupted quality time and the activity, with her preference being scrapbooking.

"Looking at your old photos...those happy times and putting it down on paper," she said, "Those memories are not going to be lost."

Happy couples have also made memories at Pens and Needles as several weddings have been held on different locations on the 18-acre property.

"We have a bridge over a brook, a grassy knoll, a big, beautiful area with trees and the lake right there," said Davis, pointing to Lind Lake.

Now, however, Davis is expanding on that idea...literally.

"We've just built a wedding event center here for summer weddings that's open, other than a roof, so that if it's raining, there is still a place to go."

The facility has a rock fireplace, bathrooms, and a big open area protected by what will soon be a vaulted pine roof.

Freshly built, Davis says they just held their first wedding in the facility on August 27.

"I just have so much fun with this," said Davis, "I love making people happy when they come here."

And even though Davis says she's always been a happy person, she's now that much more fulfilled.

Although she laughs about it being a bit stupid to start up a business you've never been involved with before during hard economic times, she says it's worked out beautifully.

"I feel that the guy upstairs knew how things were going to be for me, and I just...did it," Davis said, smiling, "I think all of us have this in us, but not everybody jumps. I jumped."

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