Leap of Faith

Bringing Things Back to Life

“When I grew up in this town, there were so many things to do. People came to this town to shop, to eat, and to do things,” Jill Stenberg said.

As a young person growing up in Thief River Falls, part of Jill’s experience was shopping at Old Bostwick’s and walking up the grand staircase that led to the junior’s department.

When she saw the Old Bostwick’s building standing empty in 2015, she decided to take a big leap of faith. “I saw this big, historic building on a major corner in downtown Thief River Falls, and I just couldn’t let it stay empty,” Jill said.

With a desire to see her hometown come back to life, she purchased the 20,000 square-foot Old Bostwick’s building on the corner of Third Street and LaBree Avenue.

When the Humane Society heard she had purchased the building, they approached her about forming a unique partnership. Through the partnership Jill established with the Humane Society, people donate items to the store, volunteers staff the store, and in return, the Humane Society receives a percentage of the revenue.

A Shopping Experience

Shopping at Old Bostwick’s is a unique experience. The amount and variety of merchandise is impressive by anyone’s definition. “We get in everything from clothing, to furniture, to books,” Jill said. Community members have been very generous with their donations and some of the donated furniture has been worth thousands of dollars.

And it’s not all used merchandise. “Some of the clothes are used and some are new with tags,” Jill said.

In addition to running the store, Jill has a full-time position at Digi-Key Electronics. With her busy schedule, Humane Society volunteers play a critical role. “They do an amazing job,” Jill said. “I come in, in the morning, and I walk around, and they have reset the store. I’m saying to myself, ‘oh my gosh, where did that come from?’ It’s so exciting to see all those new things displayed.”

The store has large display windows all along LaBree Avenue and Third street and is well-known for its eye-catching window displays. “They’re our best advertisement,” Jill said. “We like to showcase different things in the windows so that people who stop at the traffic light have something attractive to look at.”

Building Upgrades

In 2021, Jill did a major upgrade to the building, replacing all the store’s existing large windows, as well as adding windows along the alley.

Up until 2021, only 4,500 square feet of the store was open to customers. Now, Jill is opening up additional areas for shoppers and plans to continue upgrading the building’s interior.

She plans to have the entire first and second floor—a total of 20,000 square feet—open to shoppers. “People want to go upstairs because they have fond memories of shopping upstairs at Old Bostwick’s many years ago,” Jill said. “We want to restore that old staircase, so people coming home to visit family can come here and walk upstairs and reminisce about that time.”

Click here to download a PDF version of the 12-page “Come Home to Thief River Falls” publication.

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