FARGO — The first thing that strikes you as you walk through the door of Unglued in downtown Fargo is the smell — fresh, clean and aromatic.
"It's the handmade soap, right over here," says Unglued owner Ashley Morken as she directs you to a shelf near the front of the store. The decorative soaps are from the Honey Bee Soap Co. out of West Fargo and include a new soap named 'Merica.
"It says 'smells like freedom,'" Morken says with a chuckle. "It's citrus mint and it does smell good."
Unglued is home to hundreds of items like these made by local artisans and crafters.
"We have about 250 makers, and 90 percent of them are out of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota," Morken says.
The store becomes busy this time of year as people look for locally made items to keep for themselves or give as gifts.
"We see a lot of people from the surrounding area, but we also have a ton of visitors who come in for conferences or who are making North Dakota their last state to visit," Morken says. "They'll ask what 'uff-da' means or what a hotdish is."
(By the way, "uff-da" is a Scandinavian expression for surprise, annoyance or empathy, and "hotdish" is just a casserole.)
Morken says natives look for items that show off their hometown pride, while those who've moved away like to display a bit of the Midwest in their home or on their clothing. Some come right out and express a love for the region, like tote bags that say "Fargo is my Happy Place."
Other items reflect the culture of our ancestors, including a "Hold your horses" towel with the Swedish Dala horse or Scandinavian gnome wine toppers made by a crafter in Detroit Lakes, Minn.
"They've been a good gift addition. If you want to give someone wine for Christmas, it just makes it a little more festive," Morken says.
Gnomes are also featured on "God Jul" cards carried by the store.
"Northerly Goods makes these," Morken says, holding up the cards. "They're right here in town, and she's been killing it with her watercolor prints and art prints."
Unglued is full of handmade jewelry, including necklaces that also serve as fragrant oil diffusers. Morken says pens made by Fargo resident Brad Wages have also been a popular gift this year.
"He has deer antler pens, wood pens, acrylic pens, and they're refillable," Morken says. "They're $25 apiece, so that's a great price."
Morken says they just got a big shipment of Bison Booties out of Bismarck, N.D., too.
"We get asked about them all the time," she says. "She's won Martha Stewart's Handmade Award. The booties stay on baby's feet more than any shoe. So they're a great gift for mom or baby."
To find out more about Unglued, visit www.ungluedmarket.com.
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