It’s hard to spend a day in Minnesota without coming across a Love From Companies store.  Their Love From Minnesota gift shops are in the Mall of America, and the busiest part of Roseville (conveniently next to a wine store).  Their Love From Minneapolis store on 5th and Nicollet, which they share with the Minneapolis Visitor Center, is the famous Mary Tyler Moore statue’s temporary retreat from the renovations going on by her usual spot.  Their newly branded Lokel location in the Crystal Court of the IDS Center, “the crossroads of Downtown Minneapolis,” is where they offer their charming collection of gifts in addition to the things office workers need to get by comfortably.  They have a sweets depot called iCandy Sugar Shoppe in the Mall of America as well, and they even have a foothold in the Windy City with their Love From Chicago stores there.  This impressive array of stores owes its success to Love From Companies’ dedication to authenticity and art, a rare passion these days.Love From Companies was founded by Pat Chinander and her husband in 1979.  Starting with only a kiosk on St. Anthony Main in Northeast Minneapolis, in only 36 years she and her team have expanded that little booth into a 23 store empire spanning two states.  They’re currently eyeing the city they may offer love from next.

Such a big move doesn’t come without careful planning, however.  Janet Miller, Love From Companies’ creative director, explained that offering the best souvenirs a place has to offer takes a deep appreciation for the people and culture there.  “Before we open in a new market, we have to love it first.  It’s right in our name!” explained Janet.  “We visit the area, talk with the locals to see what makes them excited about their home, and we steep ourselves in the local art scene.  That part is crucial, because in order to offer a shopping experience that speaks true to its home, we design our gifts and decorations with local artists’ work.”

“We’re blessed to be rooted in a community with such talented artists, of course,” said Janet.  “One of our most popular gifts are our collages of legendary Minnesotans Prince and Bob Dylan, pieces which I’m pleased to learn most people are familiar with.  These were made right here in Minnesota by Kristi Abbott, a gifted collagist we’re proud to work with.  We’re currently developing her piece featuring the famous Bemidji Paul Bunyan into nice things to take home with you!”

 

“We’re working with another local artist named Mark Rivard, too,” said Janet.  “He’s a passionate skateboarder, so much so that he recently helped to bring the X Games to Minneapolis this July.  His painted skateboards are a blast, and we’re excited to start featuring his pieces in our stores very soon.  We strongly support the work Mark’s non-profit Rivard Arts Education does with children, and we can’t wait to see his and his kids’ art on display at the big event this summer and in our storefront on 5th and Nicollet!”

When we asked Janet about the finer points of running stores that cater to tourists, her answer surprised us.  “Believe it or not,” she said, “the majority of our customers live right in the cities we operate in!  People love sending charming gifts from their hometowns, especially Minnesotans who, in my opinion, love their home even more than usual.  I love seeing our social media light up when someone gets a truly Minnesotan gift in the mail.  We just heard about a soldier deployed overseas who was elated to get a bag of “Moose Poop” in his last care package!  (That’s chocolate covered peanuts, just so you know.)  They’re moments like those when I’m happiest that we can send little pieces of home to anyone who can’t be here right now.”

Indeed, Love From Minnesota’s gifts are all intended to deliver smiles.  They sell odes to our exceptional beer scene with decanters, branded glasses, and bottle openers made out of hockey pucks — possibly the most Minnesotan thing imaginable.  Their line of candles from Whiskey River Soap Company have names like “Office Gossip,” “Frenemies,” and “It’s Only Frickin’ Tuesday.”  Happy rubber pigs grunt convincingly when squeezed.  An important work of literature available there, Who Pooped in the North Woods?, worried me for a moment until I realized it was a guide to tracking animals rather than a brutal exposé into my vacation to Grand Marais last summer.

Let us be objective for a moment.  Minnesota is, demonstrably, the best state in the country.  As such, it’s our duty as good Minnesotan’s to spread that truth to our skeptical friends in exotic places like Europe and Wisconsin.  Love From Companies is here to help you find that perfect little instance of our statewide perfection.

 

By David Scheller