A trip to the Minnesota State Fair last fall inspired a Two Harbors couple to open a new downtown storefront in the former pharmacy building.

Ethan Casady didn't imagine he'd walk away with a new business idea when he and his wife Amanda traveled down to the Fair last summer. The couple has taken the annual trip for several years.

"After six years, you have to choose something to go for, because it’s fairly repetitive otherwise. I’d been searching pretty hard for the Sota Clothing hats. I really wanted one. We noticed that they had a booth at the State Fair and decided to find it," Casady said. "So we went there and it was just a really neat setup. I was just super-impressed with it."

Casady looked around and noticed how popular the Sota branded clothing was.

"Everybody and their brother had one of those hats on. They weren’t cheap either, but I thought they were really cool," Casady said. "So it inspired me to do something like that, but specific to Lake Superior and our area: the North Shore."

Ethan Casady's logo can be found on a wide variety of Norshore Clothing Co.'s products. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)
Ethan Casady's logo can be found on a wide variety of Norshore Clothing Co.'s products. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)
The next week, Casady found his inspiration while working his full-time job. While driving back from a landscaping job in the Toimi area, he started to envision a silhouette of Lake Superior against an outline of tall pine trees. Thus, the Norshore Clothing Co. was born.

"I went home and drew it up then took it down to a place in Duluth that does all my apparel stuff for my other business: North Harbor Services. They got it digitized and everything and I put it on a black baseball hat," Casady said.

At first, Casady planned to make two dozen hats and give them to friends and family members. But after he posted about it on Facebook, he said the "orders started flooding in" as the post was shared. Casady created a website and started putting the logo on other merchandise such as T-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, sweatshirts, hats for all seasons and coffee mugs.

The website orders were coming in regularly, but Casady decided he wanted to expand into a storefront. He started looking around at spaces and noticed the former Falk's Pharmacy space downtown at 601 First Ave. He did snow removal for the owners of the building in the past, so he reached out to them and set up a deal. The couple then got to work on the inside of the building.

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The store will feature a variety of merchandise with Casady's logo, as well as a few handmade items from local artisans.

"It had been vacant for a while, so we needed to do some work," Casady said. "We ripped out the suspended ceiling, built this wall. It’s the original tin ceiling. We ripped out the old mirrors and shelving from the old pharmacy and the carpeting."

Casady also added etchings to the large glass windows and put the logo on the front door. The space was nearly set up for the opening Wednesday, July 4, but Casady said they still had a bit of work to do.

While Casady said he hopes the store does well, he said the real goal was to “contribute to the community.”

“We want to encourage other people to do what we’re doing with these vacant storefronts. To rebuild downtown and make it a place to be and contribute to the community in that way,” Casady said.

The Norshore Clothing Co.’s storefront grand opening is 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday.