As printed in the Pilot Independent, August 22, 2017
By Mary Lundrigan Amel - Photo by Laurie Tabaka
A grand celebration took place at the flagship store of Lundrigans Clothing Aug. 15. It was the 80th birthday of the business and it was a “let the party begin atmosphere.” There was fabulous food provided by the Green Scene, bountiful beverages from the staff and just for your edification, fascinating photos of the previous proprietors.
Owner Nancy Freeman and her cohorts Crystal, Ione, Christine and Mel lead the creation of the birthday idea. This quintet is a powerhouse of ideas and creativity.
With the band of the sales staff beside them, the store turned into party central. They even provided the 80th Birthday T-shirts. It was a smashing success.
My parents would have loved it. They were the original owners of Lundrigan’s. Ed and Mabe Lundrigan had a dream in a time that didn’t have many dreams. My father bought the store in 1937, married my mom in 1939 and the dream began.
It was the same time that America entered Word War II and they still held on to the dream.
Dad was deaf in his left ear and therefore not a candidate for the service. Instead, he got up at 3 a.m. to meet the fellows who went out to net fish, return to Walker Dock and load the fish onto the train heading to Minneapolis. There the fish would be processed and sent to the troops.
After he finished netting fish, he went to the Walker School to take a bus out to pick up and deliver students. Mom opened the store at 8 and dad was usually there by 9. It was an unusual start to a dream, and it worked.
After 40 years and my father’s stroke, it was time to sell the business. My brother, Hap, overheard a fellow talking about finding a small clothing business in northern Minnesota. Enter Tony and Pat Doughty. They kept the name - minus the apostrophe - and expanded, adding a Bemidji location and another in Nisswa.
The business was moving on under their care.
When Pat and Tony decided to retire, Lundrigans was put in the hands and heart of Nancy Freeman. She’d been the store manager and had a vision of where she wanted to go.
The Bemidji store had closed and the Nisswa one was doing well. Nancy decided to open a Lundrigans in Cross Lake and later Dorset. Lundrigans now has a presence on the Internet. The dream goes on.
Nancy and her staff maintain as well as expand the quality of the merchandise and its visual presentation. Mostly importantly she and the staff knew that relationships are with the customers were critical. These women have enhanced the dream.
In addition, Nancy and the team search out the needs of Walker itself. The commitment to the wellbeing and expansion of this community is high on the “will-do” list for these gals.
My father used to call women he thought were exceptional “a great gal.” These women have met the criteria. He would also be grateful for Nancy’s commitment to Walker and the people living and recreating here. It was an important part of his dream.
Personally it is difficult to find words for this woman and her staff. In the first part of Nancy’s reign, my mother was still living in our home over the store. My father died in 1983 and mom wanted to stay in her home.
At that time, Nancy’s team was Crystal, Ione and Shelly. I was living in St. Paul and couldn’t leave my family to get to Walker as often as mom needed help. There were several times they saved both my physical and emotional struggles by taking care of those same feelings of my mother. Their compassion and empathy for my mother were remarkable. Between them and Mary Andrus, there were my family.
Near the end of mom’s life, they actually saved her life. We’d made a plan to call if anything went wrong. I received as phone call from my cousin about mom and I immediately called Shelly. She and her partner found mom in bed in very bad shape, They called the medics and got her to the Park Rapids Hospital. If they hadn’t been there, mom wouldn’t have made it.
There are not words for my feelings and gratitude about these women.
If this sounds like a love letter, it is. I love the passion, caring, the thoughtfulness these two owners have given the Lundrigan family and brand. I am grateful for their vision. Regarding Nancy and her team, I can’t help but feel we are Lundrigan sisters.
From left: Ione, Christina, Crystal (back), Mary Lundrigan, Nancy Freeman (owner), Melanie, Lynette, Sharon & Aletha