When Audra Mehl was born in 1972, her mother Pam lived in a tiny trailer in the middle of a dirt field. Although Pam experienced more than a few moments when she wondered how a city girl ended up in the middle of a field with a new husband and a baby, she made a life for herself within those circumstances. That tiny trailer has since been replaced with a beautiful house, and that field is now a lush farmstead. Pam and that young husband of hers have been married for over 45 years now, and are currently enjoying their first summer of retirement together.When Audra decided to open her own home décor store, she thought of that young girl in the field. Audra knew that she wanted to pay homage to her mother, so including “1972” in the name was a foregone conclusion. Knowing she needed more than that for a proper name, she drew from a time in her life that, although difficult and painful, ended up redefining who she is and what she believes in.
Audra reflected upon a time when she was nearing a divorce from her husband Matthew. During a consultation with her priest over the matter, she learned that the word “grace” means “undeserved kindness.” Through hard work and a lot of grace, Audra and Matthew worked through their problems and are now enjoying a happy and healthy marriage — hence the name “Grace 1972.”
Audra isn’t your typical store owner. By day, she works full-time in enterprise software sales and has enjoyed a 20-year career in the industry. Despite the success of Grace 1972, she doesn’t have any plans to leave her software career behind her, and somehow has found time to make everything work. Her passion for design makes the extra work worth it. “I firmly believe that all people have a creative aspect to their souls. When we nurture that creativity, our lives are more balanced and we feel happier and more authentic,” she said. “When we ignore it? We feel sad and unfulfilled, like something is missing, but we don’t really know why.”
Audra has had an eye for interior decorating since she was a child. “When I was as young as eight years old it was not uncommon for my mom to come home and find her entire living room rearranged during her brief absence,” she said. “She’d huff and puff with dismay, but the one thing she never did do was undo what I had done. She always ended up liking my hostage taking design shenanigans.”
It took some time, but Audra has now found a way to share her flair for design with others. She describes Grace 1972 as, “a farmhouse chic shop with the collected work of local and national artists and creators.” The store came about thanks to an off-hand comment between Audra and Matthew, who owns a gluten-free bakery with his brothers. “Hey honey, maybe I could sell some things in a little corner of your bakery?” Audra asked. “You know, that could work,” Matthew replied, starting the ball in motion. When the bakery decided to move into a bigger space, Grace 1972 was born. Currently, Matthew and his family and their employees run the day-to-day operations of Grace 1972, while Audra manages vendor relationships, products, and design. The decision to combine their businesses has led to a fascinating and symbiotic relationship. “We loved the idea of people being able to buy a latte, enjoy a cupcake, and then leisurely shop for pieces for their home,” Audra said.
Grace 1972 is the culmination of years of creative passion that have defined the person Audra Mehl has become. She now hopes to share her passion with you. “I am eternally fascinated by the energy a well-designed space infuses into the atmosphere, for our homes are extensions of, well, us,” she explained. “They say who we are. Who we love. What we love. What is important to us. How we live. If done well, our homes bring us comfort, peace and joy. They are the pillows we nap on, the blankets we crawl under, and the sofas we snuggle on to sip our peppermint tea.”
Grace 1972 is located at 1404 33rd Street South, Unit H in Fargo. More information can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/grace1972design/, Instagram @_grace_1972_, or Audra’s design blog at audramehl.net.
By Jamee Larson