MOORHEAD-There's something new at Herberger's, and it's not just the latest summer fashion.
The first items for a new in-store shop at Moorhead Center Mall, 400 Center Ave., started arriving just before Christmas. At first, Store Manager Penny Gronke said it was just a few Minnesota-made and branded T-shirts.
"We'd get them in and they'd be gone in a flash," she said.
In the months since, the Moorhead location has built up to multiple racks displaying everything from soap and beauty products to clothing and gifts-and it's all made by local or regional crafters and small businesses.
It's the store's new Close to Home shop, an initiative by Herberger's parent company, Bon-Ton Stores Inc., to add displays of regional goods and gifts to its selections inside most of its stores.
The Moorhead Herberger's as well as the store in Fargo's West Acres Shopping Center, 3902 13th Ave. S., are among more than 130 Bon-Ton stores to get Close to Home shops so far. By the end of the year, Bon-Ton will have Close to Home shops in about 175 department stores, or about two-thirds of the company's locations.
Gronke said it's been a fun addition for the store, but it's also a way for locals to get the word out about their businesses.
"We're not a specialty shop by any means, but yet we have a good amount of traffic and a lot of our customers are very proud to be from Minnesota," she said.
It's the latest way that Herberger's is working to be the "hometown department store," Gronke said.
Heidi Danos said Close to Home has been a hit. The owner of Dirty Knees Soap Co. based in Fosston, Minn., now has her brand in 14 Herberger's stores in Minnesota, including at Moorhead Center Mall.
She got the chance last summer when a Herberger's buyer found her soap at a Minneapolis store and asked if she'd want to sell products wholesale to the department store chain.
While she appreciates selling soap at local boutiques or markets just as much as larger retail stores, Danos said there's an added bonus to selling at a Herberger's.
"It gives us a lot of visibility," she said.
Cindy Freschette, too, got the chance to sell at Herberger's stores when a company buyer found her products at downtown Fargo's Unglued, 408 Broadway, and asked her to sell at the Fargo and Moorhead and stores
"It's been really, really good to work with for a big store because you never know," she said.
Freschette's Fargo-based business, Hello Lucy, sells coasters featuring branding from the local universities, as well as signs and gifts. Her coasters have been popular gift options at Herberger's, she said, and she's already had to send in a few reorders so far.
She learned while selling products at Unglued's temporary West Acres kiosk last holiday season that being in a mall could get her exposure with shoppers who might not go to a specialty shop.
"I have product in a downtown store, but different people frequent the malls often," she said.
Gronke said the Moorhead store's Close to Home shop will continue to grow as more makers and crafters sign up to sell there.
"We're really excited about it," she said. "It's been great for our business."
To find out more about the program or apply to sell at Herberger's stores, visit www.bonton.com/sc1/close-to-home.