Nicole and PJ Kruschel are familiar with owning a business.
The married couple has been overseeing their own shops for more than 14 years. Despite their familiarity, their newest venture has helped them expand their knowledge of items found in nature.
The new shop is a nature-based gift shop in downtown Baraboo, a family project in more ways than one.
Nicole’s father, former mayor Mike Palm, manages the store. They grew the idea for the shop out of his interest in aggregate and minerals.
“My dad, we knew, was going to be retiring and so we were just trying to come up with something; we’ve always known he likes rocks,” Nicole said. “And we thought it would fit well downtown, rocks. We figured too we could bring in more woodsy type and nature type products and that would really fit well down here.”
From there, they began considering names for the spot. Settling on Spirit Lake to honor the Ho-Chunk Nation name for Devil’s Lake, they toured the building at 138 Third St. in the spring and closed by June.
The property has seen its share of owners. Palm said in their work to open the business he looked into its history. It began as a saloon in 1878 and continued under that use until 1993, when it closed as a tavern, turning first into a sandwich shop and then being turned over to pizza shop owners in 2005. It stayed vacant despite some hopeful planning by past owners until the Kruschels purchased it.
PJ and Palm said rejuvenating the building was a project among relatives, from grandchildren to cousins lending a hand with the renovation.
“It was definitely a family affair,” Palm said, adding that in a way it was helpful to have an open space as “a clean slate.”
Other than the flooring and some of the plumbing, PJ said they did the majority of work themselves.
“A lot of sweat equity,” PJ said. “There was tons of family working.”
The shop officially opened Aug. 13. They plan to host a grand opening from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 18.
Opening the store has allowed the pair to learn a lot about nature items that previously only Palm was familiar with, Nicole said. The gift shop is a bit different from their current businesses, the RadioShack stores in both downtown Baraboo and Lake Delton.
“I think ‘rocks’ is just a very broad category,” Nicole said. “I’ve learned a lot in the last few months about what kind of rocks are really out there, and we have rocks from all over the world, which is really cool.”
Nicole said they also hope to teach people about the different types of natural items, from amethyst to pyrite, and the rocks found locally to both tourists and residents alike. Though some of the items are found locally, they recently received items from as far away as South Africa.
They have also worked with local artists, bringing in pottery and other artistic creations. They plan to include more items as time goes on. There are fossils, from ammonite to trilobites, and kits and puzzles for children to learn more as well.
“We really just focused on things from nature,” PJ said.
People who have visited so far tend to compliment the size of the store, but also the quality of their items, Palm said.
“We’ve got some, just really cool stuff, that people walk in here and they’re not really sure what to expect,” PJ said. “It’s just an interesting store to look through. There’s something for everyone.”
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