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Marquee Gift Shop owner Kay Larson is retiring and closing the store that has been open for 51 years, Larson said that she can't run it by herself after partner Donna Nester died last August and another partner, Eleinore Anderson retired nearly 15 years ago.(Jason Adkins/Tribune)

Marquee Gift Shop in Detroit Lakes to close after 51 years in business

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Detroit Lakes Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

DETROIT LAKES - The sign above the front door inside the Marquee Gift Shop in Detroit Lakes sums up the store.

There is no place anything like this place anywhere near this place, so this must be the place.

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For owner Kay Larson, it will be bittersweet to see the sign for the last time when she closes the door on the shop Jan. 30.

An office will move into the location on Washington Avenue across from Washington Square Mall.

The Marquee Gift Shop is a Detroit Lakes icon, having opened its doors 51 years ago.

Those doors weren't in the same location, though, Larson said. It used to be a few doors down in the State Theatre building.

Larson said the original owner, Eileen Mahoney, set up shop in her husband's photography store.

"It was small," Larson said. "It was like a hallway, very narrow and little."

The store moved to its present location and kept growing from there. Larson came to Detroit Lakes from Brandon in 1975.

"I needed something to do," she said. "I walked in and said 'Are you hiring?' And so I started working here."

Larson, along with two partners, Eleinore Anderson and Donna Nester took over ownership of the Marquee in 1979 after Mahoney became severely ill from cancer.

"It wasn't a big transition because we were already working here and taking care of the store when she was ill," Larson said.

Anderson retired 15 years ago and now lives in the Indianapolis area. Nester died suddenly last August at her home in Detroit Lakes.

"I can't do this whole thing by myself," Larson said of why she's closing the Marquee. "And besides, I'm at retirement age. I want to retire now."

Running the Marquee is labor intensive. It's definitely not a job where the owner can just sit back and relax, while letting others do all the work.

"You order it, get it in, unpack it and display it," Larson said. "It's fun, but there comes a point where you can't do it alone. And I'm too old to go find a new partner."

Larson will miss her customers.

She said that there were a lot of people who expressed their condolences when Nester passed away and she received a lot of hugs.

A lot of hugs have been going around in the past week or so, too.

"It's been unbelievable," Larson said.

Larson said that she loved working with her partners and her employees. They have been the backbone of the store.

She said that a lot of girls from Detroit Lakes High School worked at the Marquee throughout the years. And she's stayed in touch with most of them since their time at her store.

"We've had wonderful help from our employees," Larson said. "They've been reliable."

Customers have been loyal as well. Larson said that some would come year-after-year, entering into the store and saying, "We're back!"

"They've been coming in for so many years that they are going to miss it when it's gone," Larson said.

Some of the merchandise has changed, of course, as trends have come and gone. One of the ones that have gone by the wayside is yearly collectibles.

"People would wait for the next year," Larson said.

Despite that, there was still something for everyone at every price range.

"When they needed a gift, they could find a lower-priced item or a higher-priced item," Larson said. "There was a lot of variety."

That variety meant that there were a lot of one-of-a-kind items. Larson said, though, that the store's character has remained the same.

"A lot of things have never changed," Larson said. "We kept the same thing over and over again. I don't know if that was good or bad, but people would say 'If you don't have it, nobody does.'"

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