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In Odin: Craft mill remains popular

ODIN — The Odin Craft Mill’s annual fall show is happening this weekend and next. It has been a long-standing tradition for people in the small community and far beyond.

The mill’s owner, Nancy Olson, held the first show in the spring of 2000.

“I bought the Odin Feed Mill in 1999 from a fellow who used to run it,” she said.

Olson was managing the local grocery store at the time and knew the feed mill was struggling. The owner of the mill came into the grocery store and said he would sell the mill to whoever wanted to buy him lunch, and Olson said, “It’s sold.”

She had been looking for a place to start a business. She has always created crafts and, after she had children, she kept doing so, attending weekend shows. She made friends with consignors from all over.

Once the mill became available, Olson said everything fell into place and felt right.

“We cleaned it out. There were cats, rats, mice, raccoons. It had lots of stuff in here from 1950 and forward,” she said of the mill, which was built in 1923.

The first show was in April 2000. She had 35 consignors selling crafts. In August of that year, Olson moved the 1917 Montgomery Ward home and attached it to the mill.

“That came about six miles. It had original woodwork, flooring, windows and wallpaper. In the fall when I opened, I had the mill and the house to use,” Olson said.

In July 2003, the 1927 Gordon Van Tine barn was moved from Butterfield and attached to the mill as well.

Throughout the years, Olson has added several bump-outs to the mill and a bigger room between the mill and the house. She also has needed to keep up with maintaining the old structures.

She now has space for 150 consignors who sell their crafts from all over the country. They hail from Miami, New Orleans, California, and all around the state of Minnesota, all the way up to the Canadian boarder.

She might lose about 10 consignors per year but can pick up 10 new ones before the next show.

“I’m always looking for something I don’t have to make it new for people,” Olson said.

Many unique handmade items line the walls and fill every shelf throughout the mill. They include seasonal home decor, yard art, jewelry, repurposed furniture, kitchen items, gifts, baked goods and more.

Olson doesn’t track how many people go through on a weekend.

“When it started, I knew everyone in here, but now maybe I know 10 percent because they’re coming from such a distance,” she said.

Olson sends out a flyer from a mailing list one month before each show. When she first began, she sent out 115. Now it’s 5,400 flyers sent to shoppers all over the country.

She knows of a group of four sisters, all from different states, who meet at the mill to have a sister weekend each year.

“I have one family who came during the first show I opened and they still come. They’re up to five generations,” Olson said.

There has always been a spring and fall show. This year, because of the pandemic, there was no spring show. A show was held in September instead.

Olson said eight women help her set up. A show can be arranged in about 10 days. It takes about a week to take everything down. Between shows, the mill is empty.

“I started with all volunteers and now they’re all employees,” Olson noted.

She is up to about 30 employees.

Olson also cooks all of the food that is offered at the show. There is a sitting area where shoppers can enjoy a hot sandwich, bars and a drink.

Following the fall show, Olson will start preparing for spring. She decides what the rooms will house and what color theme will go in each, then paints accordingly. She also starts on her own crafts.

Running the mill has been a full-time job for Olson, but she enjoys that she can take days off when she wants. Olson said she never dreamt the craft mill would become such a big operation.

“I call it my grandchild,” she said. “I started it as a baby and every year it kept getting bigger, and now it’s an adult. It’s been an amazing adventure. At no time would I have given it up. I love what I do.”

The craft mill is open today and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., then again next Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is located at 109 First Ave. South in Odin.

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