Monday morning, Jane Hoffer-Moen is sitting at a card table painting driftwood Santas at a card table in the Northwoods Pioneer Gallery and Gifts near Castle Danger.
The quiet shop just across Highway 61 from Grand Superior Lodge is a haven for local artists and crafters to sell their wares and has a unique arrangement with the member artists to help staff the store. Part of being a member is helping staff the shop for five days each year or, for members that no longer live locally, they pay to staff the shop.
Hoffer-Moen and her husband were spending the week camping in their RV while she ran the shop and the Superior-native said one of the best parts about working in the store was the opportunity to meet the people who are buying her art. Hoffer-Moen used to sell on eBay and had an Etsy store online, but the social interaction is something that she missed.
"Everybody's got a story and you just never know who you're going to meet and what we're going to talk about," Hoffer-Moen said. "The most interesting people come here and they're just from everywhere. People from other countries, artists and musicians will stop here."
Opportunities also arise from some of those interactions. Hoffer-Moen met a musician recently in the shop who was planning to write a children's book. The two connected and Hoffer-Moen is now working with the musician to illustrate the book.
Most, if not all, the art and crafts in the Pioneer Gallery has a North Shore feel to it, with moose, fish, birds, lighthouses and Lake Superior appearing in different mediums throughout the gallery. Wood Lake Superior cribbage boards sit alongside jewelry containing agates or sea glass.
"All the members are either local or have a strong local connection," said Mabel Tarlton, the cooperative board chair. "If someone lived here, but moved to another area to retire, as long as they can either work their days or pay someone to work their days and get product in here and we still consider them local... We don't give up our local connection very easily."
Northwoods began in 1972 and is the longest continuously operating art craft coop in the state of Minnesota. It was originally located at a small building at the base of Silver Creek Cliff, but when the tunnel was completed in 1994, the shop was cut off from the highway. Instead of allowing the obstacle to slowly strangle the shop's business, the cooperative's board and its members made the decision to purchase the land and build the current Castle Danger location.
Since the move, the shop has stocked a variety of handmade items that includes practical things like kitchen towels, hot pads, aprons, wooden bowls, ceramic mugs and even jams while also selling more decorative items that like paintings, photography and other wooden sculptures.
"One of the things I love about this place is that everything is handmade," Hoffer-Moen said. "There's nothing imported from anywhere, nothing against that, but you don't find a shop very often where everything is handmade."
Northwoods will celebrate its 45th anniversary from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 15 at the shop. There will be food, door prizes and demonstrations of different art and craft techniques.