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New Ben Franklin fills void

When the Ben Franklin in Detroit Lakes closed its doors 18 months ago, some die-hard crafters didn't have many places to turn.

Some went as far as Wadena to get their artsy fix, to the Ben Franklin owned by Cindy McCullough.

After seeing that there was still a need for an arts and crafts store in Detroit Lakes, she started looking for property.

McCullough closed on the space in the Washington Square Mall that used to be Michael's Furniture in April, and 90 days later, after painting and making the space less "blah," she and manager Jayne Haldorson are running grand opening festivities for Detroit Lakes' new Ben Franklin.

"The location was wonderful, and the time seemed to be right. It's getting to be an exciting time in Detroit Lakes," McCullough said. "The people of Detroit Lakes are very creative people that just need the resources."

The grand opening celebration kicked off on Wednesday, featuring a "truckload fabric sale," with selected fabrics for only $1.79 a yard.

There is a different kid's event every day. Thursday, it was sand art, and McCullough said they'd be making thank you cards and decorating foam visors later in the week.

Pizza from Papa Murphy's, cookies and juice keep patrons happy as they peruse the new digs. Visitors are also encouraged to register for door prizes, which range from calligraphy sets to gift certificates.

McCullough's son, Matt, dressed up as Ben Franklin for the grand opening as well. He's the head of maintenance, she said, and that they "wouldn't have opened if it weren't for him."

Haldorson said they ran into a few mishaps while preparing for the opening (the spout on the juice container fell out while she was mixing it and it spilled all over the floor and on her white tennis shoes, which now have pink spots.), but they are "monitoring and adapting to the situations."

Overall, the duo said they've gotten a great response from customers. They said their favorite thing is when people come in with an idea, and can bounce solutions around on how to complete the project.

"Their enthusiasm is contagious," Haldorson said. "And, for some people, it's a jaw-dropping thing. They come in here and they're like, 'This is Ben Franklin?' It's not the old Ben Franklin at all."

McCullough said office supplies have been surprisingly popular, and the bead and yarn market has been doing well. Kids crafts materials and fine arts supplies have been better than expected, too.

Nevertheless, they still get requests for "odd and unique things," but Haldorson said, "those are the fun ones."

One woman, for instance, came in looking for pastel-colored powdery glitter, which they didn't have in stock, but McCullough said they would in a couple of weeks. She offered to get it from her store in Wadena if the woman needed it soon, but the customer declined and said she'd wait.

Another customer wanted a pen that would reflect in a black light, and they had it in stock.

Overall, the pair said opening the Ben Franklin has "been wonderful," and they look forward to offering informational classes or group sessions.

"We're open to anything, and are taking any suggestions," Haldorson said.

The new Ben Franklin is located in the Washington Square Mall, and can also be accessed off Washington Avenue across the street from Norby's Department Store.