PROGRESS EDITION: Downtown gets boost with book store move

From the Heart Bible & Gift enjoying new location

 

From the Heart Bible & Gift owner Barb Nowicki is pictured with store merchandise and a small sample of the many Bible versions sold at the downtown store.

From the Heart Bible & Gift owner Barb Nowicki is pictured with store merchandise and a small sample of the many Bible versions sold at the downtown store.

Cliff Buchan
Staff Writer

Sometimes you have to take a chance in life and in business. Barb and Mike Nowicki knew they were taking a chance when they opened a business in Forest Lake 18 years ago, but they had faith and a belief that their store, From the Heart Bible & Gift, would succeed.

“We really felt there was a need for this type of store in Forest Lake,” Barb Nowicki said.

An earlier attempt at a Bible and gift store in Forest Lake served the area for several years before closing. The Nowickis, after extended research and some prayer, decided to give it a go, opening at Northland Mall in September of 1996.

Three locations later, the rest is history as From the Heart has passed the test of time as a little business that could. Last year presented another test for From the Heart as the Nowickis lost their lease at 711 SW Centennial Drive due to an internal business expansion that required the book store’s space and forced the move.

During the first half of 2013, the couple spent time searching for new quarters in Forest Lake.

The search for new quarters posed some challenges as the owners had to evaluate the cost, the location and the space needed to display their products.

Photos by Cliff Buchan

Photos by Cliff Buchan

“There was a point when we didn’t know if we were going to stay open,” Nowicki said.

However, in the spring they secured some 2,000 square feet in the Park Place office/commercial building at 25 N. Lake St.

The book store and gift shop made the move over the Memorial Day weekend in 2013 and is now nearing its first anniversary in Suite 115, right next door to Green Door Consignment Center, another small business that has found a home in the city’s downtown business district.

“We like being on the main drag and in the downtown,” Nowicki said.

The new location has enabled the owners to expand their inventory. The store has retained its solid customer base and is now pulling in new shoppers who drive by and discover the store they never knew existed prior to the move, Nowicki said.

“We have a great community and get a lot of support from the surrounding communities and the churches in the area,” she said. The store serves a customer base that extends into Wisconsin. Customers from the Duluth area also call from From the Heart their store of choice, Nowicki said.

From the Heart Bible & Gift offers a full line of gift items that are perfect for all occasions, not simply Christian holidays.

“People are surprised by that,” Nowicki said.

The store also stocks a large selection of Bibles in a wide range of versions. Greeting cards are big sellers at the store, too, Nowicki says. Teaching materials for churches add to the inventory.

Nowicki’s store offers twice-weekly special order purchases with quick turnaround for items needed immediately. Online shopping and ordering is possible at www.fromtheheartbible.com.

The downtown store is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 to 5 on Saturday.

Nowicki, a former teacher, runs the day-to-day operation at the store while her husband, Mike, a Delta Airlines employee, takes care of the books. The operation is assisted by an employee team that has recorded many years of work. The staff includes Linda Nickelson, a 16-year employee, and Jean Trumper, Karen Freed, Julie Sander and Val Yobbie. Trumper worked with the store 18 years ago but left to raise a family before returning to work a year ago.

The Nowickis remain confident that the store will be a success in its new location and that the downtown will once again be an area where more retailers will call home. If this “Ma and Pa” store can be a success, so can others, Nowicki said.

“We felt led by God,” Nowicki said. “It all came together.”

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