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A Pollinator-Friendly Business More Than Worth a Visit


Click on image to go to the Facebook page.

A while back, a friend mentioned a woman in Mabel, MN, who was a strong advocate for monarch butterflies, and that I should get in touch with her. I stored the info in my sometimes-muddled -- no, wait, altogether-too-often-muddled -- brain to pursue later. The later fell into my lap a few days ago, when this image and the proprietor's post about another local small business popped up on our Facebook feed. I went to this business's page, saw this was the woman I'd been told about, got in the car, and proceeded to learn just how much cooler than I already thought are the region in which I live and its people.

Mabel, MN, is a little city on Hwy 44 just above the Iowa state line in SE MN/NE IA. It has a post office, a tiny library, a bank, an historic hotel where Charles Lindbergh once stayed, an American Legion, a laboratory that produces herbal and natural-oil skin products for people and animals, charming gift/floral, quilting, and antique shops, a farm and home store, a hardware store, and now, two (2!) really good eating establishments--a traditional diner with wonderful homemade food (BBG's), and the Mabel Smokehouse Bar & Grill, with a third being remodeled at present. Oh, and there's a grocery store now, Lange's, which has the area buzzing with enthusiasm, as the last grocery store closed six years ago. Mabel hosts the Hesper-Mabel Steam Engine Days every year on the weekend after Labor Day, an event that fulfills all the requirements of a Norman Rockwellian small town festival.

Turns out, Irene and Glenn Fishburn's shop is in Newburg, a township about five miles NW of Mabel. Newburg Vintage Home & Garden and Small Batch Bakery is everything a small business should be, including being enthusiastically supported by the local community. The shop carries items with a French twist: dried lavender, French soaps, accent pieces for your home and garden. The days the shop is open (Friday and Saturday, 11:00-3:00, in winter) there are coffee, homemade soup, and rolls you pay for with a freewill donation of cash or non-perishable food items. All proceeds go to the Mabel Food Shelf. There's a homey little sitting area for you to enjoy your food. They are in the process of doubling the seating due to the response the setup is getting. However, once you try one of Irene's croissants, you may never want to eat anything else again. I'm not one for cliches if I can avoid them, but to die for? Um, yeeeeaaah. And they're just one of the delectable bakery choices Irene offers during business hours or by special order.

What made me fall in love with Newburg Vintage Home & Garden, however, is the owners' passion for monarchs and bees. Before you even get to the steps to the porch, you're treated with the sight of a mason bee house. (Viva les native bees!) Irene and Glenn are also devoted to teaching people about the threats facing the survival of the monarch species, offering information, flower seeds, and soon, milkweed seedlings. I'm so looking forward to wandering through their zinnia garden in the summer, which Irene says is always aflutter with butterflies. This coming summer (and yes, to paraphrase Camus, summer, too, is inevitable), the gardens will have more seating than in the past. Irene and Glenn also have plans for building a garden house from reclaimed windows and doors to serve as an education center to enlighten people about the threats to pollinators, especially the monarch butterfly and bees. Irene has expressed interest in carrying Pollinating Life's jewelry line with no commission, so all of our profits (when we finally see some!) can go to pollinator and prairie non-profits.

As if all this isn't enough, Irene and Glenn also rescue cats and collect donations for the local humane society. I ask you, how often do you hear of a business spreading education and compassion the way Newburg Vintage Home & Garden and Small Batch Bakery does? Just one more reason to shop local.

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