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Head to Hallock for a day trip

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The cubbies from her grandfather's former blacksmith shop in Newfolden, Minn., now hold garden decor inside Darcene Burgess' greenhouse. (Janelle Vonasek/Grand Forks Herald)2 / 8
Miranda Gustafson moves meat into the giant smoker. (Janelle Vonasek/Grand Forks Herald)3 / 8
Hallock artist Rock Bakken holds his winning painting from the Northwest Minnesota Arts Contest. Several pieces of his artwork are on display inside his Bakken Boots business in Hallock. (Janelle Vonasek/Grand Forks Herald)4 / 8
Miranda Gustafson, manager of the meat market at the Farmer's Store, begins her day early to mix up dozens of specialties for customers. (Janelle Vonasek/Grand Forks Herald)5 / 8
Dawn Austin, longtime owner of Austin Flowers in Hallock, Minn., shares a laugh with new owner Mandi Samuelson. She was showing Samuelson the ropes and how to put together a wristlet corsage for the high school prom. Samuelson plans to add more boutique clothing to the shop, which she will rename Farm Town Floral. (Janelle Vonasek/Grand Forks Herald)6 / 8
Darcene and Chris Burgess of Burgess's Greenhouse credit the success of their business to their dedicated staff. (Janelle Vonasek/Grand Forks Herald)7 / 8
Elden (from left) and Eileen Johnson, along with Pauline Olson, work to assemble wagon wheel rugs at the Second Glance Thrift Store inside the Hallock Senior Citizens Center. (Janelle Vonasek/Grand Forks Herald) 8 / 8

HALLOCK, Minn. — Population: 981. It's just a number, but residents of this northwest Minnesota town say you shouldn't let it fool you.

Hallock may have fewer than 1,000 people who call it home, but what the town lacks in numbers it makes up for in character. As other towns struggle to grow after watching their under-40 populations drain to larger cities, Hallock is attracting new families and young entrepreneurs. As other main streets are pared to bare necessities, Hallock's marketplace thrives.

Take a tour

A recent walking tour proved the little town has more to see than fits in a day. Besides its popular Revelation Ale and Far North Spirits, Hallock has a number of other successful restaurants, clubs and businesses. Here are just a few that day trippers might want to explore:

Visitors of the longtime Austin Flowers will discover a new face and a new sign: Farm Town Floral. Forty-year florist Dawn Austin owned the floral/boutique shop for 13 years but recently sold it to Mandi Samuelson.

Samuelson, 31, and husband Tanner, both UND graduates, moved to Hallock about four years ago. They have children ages 9, 6, 2 and 10 months.

"I'm just crazy," Samuelson said with a laugh. "But it has been something I always wanted to do. Since I was little, I played 'store.' I guess I've always needed a creative outlet."

She will have a chance for plenty of that at the shop that's as much boutique as it is flower shop. Samuelson is taking it slow, but she says she plans to add even more boutique clothing to the already large selection of attire, gifts and decor.

"I feel like there is this huge momentum in town. There's all this opportunity here, and it's a great place to raise a family. This has been more home than anyplace else we've lived. The people are wonderful," she said. "I feel like there are so many young families here. It's not a dying town."

On a recent prom prep day, Austin and crew were giving Samuelson a lesson on wristlet corsages.

"If you're going to be Farm Town Floral, you've got to get your flannel on," Austin said as she grabbed a pink plaid button-up off the rack and handed it to Samuelson.

In the back, Renee Nelson concentrated as she added glitter to glue-tipped flower petals. If Samuelson didn't get the hang of it after 35 pairs of wristlets and boutonnieres, no worries.

"She says she likes antiques, so I guess she'll keep me and my staff," Austin said.

"You guys have all the wisdom and experience. I'd be crazy to get rid of you guys," Samuelson threw back.

Right next door is Burgess's Greenhouse, owned by Darcene and Chris Burgess. The business has been a standby for more than 20 years, but Darcene says they've owned it for five.

With each of its seven expansive greenhouses more colorful than the last, guests may find it difficult to rush. The front shop also is packed with charming indoor and outdoor decor.

A former longtime kindergarten teacher, Darcene props eye candy in every corner. Her father's old shop door acts as a canopy over the front counter — itself decorated with corrugated steel from a family granary. A giant wall of cubbies that once stood in her grandfather's blacksmith shop now holds garden goods.

"People come in here and say it looks beautiful, but I tell them it wouldn't look this beautiful without our phenomenal staff," Darcene says. "They all care about this place as much as we do."

Going to market

Another longtime business is the Farmer's Store grocery and meat market. Tom Swanson's grandfather started the three-generation business in 1904.

"It's always been in Hallock. It started out like an everything store, a general mercantile," Swanson said. "There was clothing, fabric, shoes. ... We sell a lot of things out of this store, but we don't have Chinese shower curtains."

Swanson said he focused on groceries when he built the new store in 1994. It now stocks 26,085 different items, but what draws people from far and wide is the store's large variety of specialty meats.

Meat manager Miranda Gustafson rises early to roll giant racks of bacon into the smoker, grind fresh hamburger or spice up some of the two dozen brat flavors. The most popular are Hawaiian and Wild Rice Cheddar, she says.

The store also is known for Roger's Potato Korv — a potato-based sausage perfected by the former longtime meat manager.

"I haven't changed it. It's his original recipe," Gustafson says. "People really like it. It's just a tradition around here."

It's shipped as far as Florida and, during the holidays it's not unusual to go through "21 banana boxes" — or 1,000 pounds — of the local delicacy.

Crafts and coffee

And if visitors are craving crafts, they can find them at the Second Glance Thrift Store inside Hallock's Senior Citizens Center.

Pauline Olson manages the store where she also weaves wagon wheel rugs and trivets with Elden and Eileen Johnson.

"We've been to shows all over, and we've sold hundreds over the years," Elden said. "And it sure helps our (Senior Center) budget."

A newcomer to town is the Bean and Brush coffee cafe. Kate and Frank Johnson, both ordained ministers, moved to Hallock from the Twin Cities about six years ago.

"When we moved up we thought, 'Oh man, if only Hallock had a coffee shop, we would have no need to go anywhere else,'" Kate said.

Three months ago, she opened the coffee shop inside a century-old bank. Lunch specials also are available, and guests can dine inside the walk-in vault.

"We wanted to come to a rural, small town to enjoy a different pace of life, and Hallock has been really good to us," Johnson said. She and her husband have a 4-year-old girl and are expecting their second child in September.

"The community has just exploded with new businesses and opportunities," she said.