New downtown business ‘Fruit Cellar’ repurposes items from the past

NEW ULM – South First Street has a new store called the Fruit Cellar, but despite the name no produce is sold inside the business.

Fruit Cellar actually sells restored and repurposed items. Business owners Paula Brandel Ryder and Kari Linbo named their store after an old hand-made wooden sign found inside the building. Written in pencil the sign reads: “Keep Dog Out of Fruit Cellar.”

Naming a store after an old sign might seem misleading, but is actually an appropriate metaphor for the business. The name “Fruit Cellar” is being repurposed, just like the items inside the store.

Ryder and Linbo were inspired to start the business based on their shared experience of shopping in stores that specialize in hand-made items and antiques. Customers paying close attention will notice that even the store’s cash register is from a bygone era.

“We’re inspired by stuff with history,” Ryder said. “These are things – that people took time to make – are special.”

Last year Linbo and her sister Jennifer Helget purchased the building on the corner of First South and Minnesota streets for their business Route 1 Interiors. The building had additional space in the basement to allow Linbo and Ryder to open a store based on their mutual interest.

Because Ryder and Linbo already work full-time jobs The Fruit Cellar is run as an “occasional store.” Business hours are limited to a single weekend per month or during special community events. The official Grand Opening will be during the Bavarian Blast weekend celebration, which in July 18, 19 and 20.

By the time of the grand opening Ryder and Linbo promise the store will have additional items such as wood-fired ceramics and other repurposed products. Currently Linbo is working on a hallway storage bench created from a series of old lockers.

Linbo is also excited about the Fruit Cellar’s tree stump coffee tables. The tables are cut from a tree trunk and given a clear finish. Linbo has one in her home. “They look good everywhere,”she said.

Ryder teaches art classes at St. Cloud Technical and Community College. Some of her original art work will be available at the store.

Ryder and Linbo hope to change the store’s offerings every month to appeal to wide variety of customers and circulate as many unique items as possible.

Linbo described the philosophy of the Fruit Cellar. “We think homes should have many eclectic conversation pieces,” she said.

Perhaps the best conversation piece in the store is the sign that inspired the Fruit Cellar’s name. Ryder and Linbo have displayed the old sign in prominent position near the antique cash register.

Who was this dog? How was it getting into the fruit cellar? Where exactly was the fruit cellar? Why is the sign written in pencil instead of paint? Neither Ryder nor Linbo have any answers, but the questions create imaginative answers to the past.

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