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Pop-up success Hucklebeary finds permanent home

Perry Framing and Stained Glass owner Penny Perry sold the downtown building to Hucklebeary Owner Emily Ekstrom after 47 years of operation.

Two women standing in front of a store.
Emily Ekstrom, left, and Perry Framing and Stained Glass Owner Penny Perry stand in front of Perry’s shop Thursday, July 28, 2022. After 47 years in business, Perry sold 216 and 218 E. Superior St. to Ekstrom for her gift and card business, Hucklebeary. Perry will continue her business out of her home.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — For decades, Perry Framing and Stained Glass was a staple of the downtown Historic Arts and Theatre District. After 47 years, the building at 218 E. Superior St. will see new ownership after Penny Perry sold it to Emily Ekstrom , owner of Hucklebeary .

Penny's sister, Gale Perry, opened Perry Framing in 1975. After Gale died in 1989, Penny continued to operate the business in its original location by offering custom framing, restoration, design builds, windows and lamps.

Perry Framing operated out of one-third of the space; the remaining space was occupied by tenant Minnesota Foodservice Company, owned by Richard Forsblad.

Penny Perry said she is not retiring or quitting; only downsizing on property. Perry Framing will continue to operate out of Perry's home workspace with a focus on stained glass restoration, in addition to hanging and pickup services. More information will soon be available at perryframing.com , or by contacting Perry at perryframing@aol.com or 218-727-6689.

From Pop-up to a perfect fit

The owners of Hucklebeary and Perry Framing first met while volunteer face painting at the Duluth Aquarium. Ekstrom learned Perry was interested in selling her property, but was waiting for the right person. The building is in need of updates — the perfect undertaking for a new owner to do it the way they like, Perry said.

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Hucklebeary 3
Emily Ekstrom, right, laughs as Penny Perry tells how her sister would use a circular saw to cut things down to size, including the 10-foot-long wood counter in front of her. Originally 16 feet long, the counter came from a railroad depot. Ekstrom plans to join the two pieces together to restore it to its original size.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

"I had always dreamed of starting a business and having a storefront. In the fall of 2017, the Greater Downtown Council Pop-up Program helped make that dream a reality by providing a space to start," Ekstrom posted to the Hucklebeary Facebook page.

Hucklebeary originated at 106 E. Superior St. in a 2,000-square-foot, rent-free space for the first three months under the pop-up program. Its cards, creative stationary, prints, paper crafts and handmade, regionally sourced goods like jewelry, mugs, notebooks and other gifts became popular among customers, Ekstrom said.

Hucklebeary's mascot and namesake, an Australian shepherd and border collie mix named Bear was happy to greet new visitors. The business was welcomed and accepted by the community, so Ekstrom extended the lease for another nine months. Afterward, the location and former Hotel Astoria building was set to be demolished.

Plans for demolition were delayed; meanwhile, Hucklebeary remained a tenant on borrowed time. When the eviction notice finally arrived late last year, Ekstrom reached out to Perry again to seriously inquire about purchasing her building.

"I'm so excited to sell to another business owner that loves downtown and the HART District," Perry said.

President of the Greater Downtown Council of Duluth Kristi Stokes added, "It’s exciting to see that this will remain creative space in the HART District. And it’s exciting that a business that started as a pop-up shop has not only grown, but also moved into investing as a property owner."

Woman standing in a building.
Emily Ekstrom checks her phone inside her new location at 218 E. Superior St. Ekstrom will join the location with the storefront next door to create a single space for her gift and card business.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

"To go from pop-up to permanent to then owning a building on the same street is beyond what I imagined this business to be," Ekstrom wrote in a Facebook post.

Ekstrom also serves on the Greater Downtown Council board, and was an advocate for the pop-up program to return.

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"I appreciate the beauty of this building, the historic value of the location and space, along with the legacy being entrusted to me. Going forward, we will refer to this building as the Perry Building," Ekstrom wrote.

IMG_1617.jpg
Perry Framing and Stained Glass Owner Penny Perry (left), Hucklebeary Owner Emily Ekstrom and Greater Downtown Council President Kristi Stokes pose outside of the building at 216 E. Superior St. during the initial announcement of change in ownership on July 7.
Contributed / Emily Ekstrom

Hucklebeary hibernation

The transition of storefront spaces came at a time when Ekstrom was experiencing life and loss. While relocating, she was eight-and-a-half months pregnant with her first child, and also lost her father to pancreatic cancer.

"2022 has been the best and worst year of my life," Ekstrom said.

In the interim period between eviction and transferring the storefront to its new permanent location, Hucklebeary is in a hibernation stage, Ekstrom said. Customers can shop online at hucklebearyduluth.com . A temporary shop has been set up on First Street and Second Avenue, inside the In Cahoots co-op space shared with Reimagined, by T. Underwood and Lauralloons . Hucklebeary is currently operating as a warehouse, offering gift basket bundles with a card and delivery.

In-store shopping returning soon

Located two blocks away from the previous location, Hucklebeary’s new permanent home is anticipated to open this fall for an in-person shopping experience — just in time for the holiday season. It will offer the same items customers have come to expect, with an added emphasis on party supplies, Ekstrom said.

Inside a store.
In addition to its creative space, the original Hucklebeary offered a range of cards and gifts.
Steve Kuchera / 2018 file / Duluth News Tribune

"Hucklebeary has changed as a business to offer more party supplies," Ekstrom said. "I've found my niche — a little of something for everyone for every occasion. When people celebrate, I want them to say, 'Let's go to Hucklebeary and get something.' It's almost like you're always having a party. They come in upset and leave with a smile. It really is the retail therapy — it's more of surrounding yourself with things that give you light and energy, whether it be people and products,"

Continuing to partner with Ekstrom at the new location will be Lauralloons Balloon Boutique by Laural Schultze, specializing in custom air-filled balloon sculptures and decor.

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"Laurel is a talented balloon artist. With Duluth Balloon Company leaving, she is the girl in town that does it. It coordinates well with what I am selling. She's gotten busy with tying balloons and does pickups through Hucklebeary," Ekstrom said.

Meanwhile, the remodeling project is underway as Ekstrom works with architects to envision the new retail space. She hopes to create an inviting environment, and find new ways to partner with neighboring businesses to incorporate food and beverages into workshop experiences.

Crown molding.
Emily Ekstrom plans to remove a suspended ceiling in her new building to expose crown molding that has been hidden for years.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

"We need to share traffic to make everyone successful and help the growth of what is happening down here in the HART District. I'm very excited about space," Ekstrom said. "It's a hard time to buy a building, but I am so invested in the growth and where we can take this to."

Even though Bear is loving being a big brother, he is ready to come back to greet customers at the store, Ekstrom added.

Woman photographs a class.
In 2018 Hucklebeary owner Emily Ekstrom takes a picture of a group of women learning to make decorative paper flowers in the original Hucklebeary’s workshop and event space.
Steve Kuchera / file / Duluth News Tribune

This story was updated at 11:02 a.m. Aug. 2 to correct details about the demolition of the former Hotel Astoria building. Notice for the building demolition was given to tenants in 2021. The story was originally posted at 12:30 p.m. July 29. The News Tribune regrets the error.

Brielle Bredsten is the business reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.

She earned a bachelor's degree in Professional Writing & Technical Communication, with minors in Advertising and Creative Writing from Metropolitan State University, in addition to a two-year professional paid internship as reporter/editor of the student newspaper.

She is an award-winning professional writer, photographer and editor based in rural Minnesota. Over the past decade, Brielle Bredsten has contributed more than 1,000 articles, feature stories, non-profit press-releases, photographs and columns. Her work has been published in several community newspapers.

Send her story tips, feedback or just say hi at bbredsten@duluthnews.com.
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