A new place to shop on Main Street

R Lee’s Emporium brings Christmas cheer to Cottonwood’s Main Street

Photo by Jody Isaackson Part-time sales assistant Amber Demenge displays her favorite item in R Lee’s Emporium in Cottonwood. It is a fabricated metal pineapple.

COTTONWOOD — Just in time for Christmas shopping, a new gift store has popped up on Cottonwood’s Main Street.

Owner Rhonda Lee Lutgen of Cottonwood saw an opportunity to make her dreams come true last spring when she purchased the building located between the Cottonwood Community Center and the Cottonwood Post Office from its previous owner, Glenda Vanlerberghe. Lutgen was able to open the store on Oct. 8.

“I’ve always had a part-time job along with a full-time job,” Lutgen said. “That way I can build something of my own and still enjoy the benefit of a consistent income with health insurance benefits. And, it’s a fun way to get to know the people of Cottonwood.”

Lutgen enjoys antique shopping and going to household sales to find unique pieces for her own home and wants to share that with others. This is something she plans to do more of as her shop grows.

“I’ve already been to Waco, Texas, twice, to visit Joanna Gaines’ shop,” Lutgen said. Gaines is a role model for Lutgen and is the star of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.”

R Lee’s Emporium got its name from two ideas. One is that R Lee is from Lutgen’s name, Rhonda Lee.

“An emporium encompasses many things, like the gift gallery, the tanning beds and the fact that I take consignment items,” Lutgen said. “I only have one vendor with consignment items at this time because I cannot have the store open full time. The Snap Jewelry vendor is fine with that.”

Currently, Lutgen has one part-time assistant to help her set displays of the recycled metal wall hangings, scented candles, Honey House Naturals body care sets and Snap Jewelry she has for sale in the gift shop. The employee is Amber Demenge, a student at Southwest Minnesota State University.

“I like the recycled metal pineapples the best,” Demenge said. “I also have one of these Uchi purses.”

“The Uchi purses are made from recycled army tents,” Lutgen said. “I also have these canvas-covered journals for sale.”

Demenge also mans the till if Lutgen is busy with another project, such as freshening up one of the apartments upstairs that will soon be available for rent. There are four apartments that Lutgen bought along with the business area on the main floor.

Lutgen is also paneling the walls in the extension of the front room to allow the display of more wall hangings without putting a lot of holes in the walls themselves. The pine paneling adds an additional farm house element that seems to bring the theme to life for her.

Lutgen lives in Cottonwood, but works days in Marshall, so shop hours reflect her schedule. R Lee’s is open from 6 p.m. until close on Monday through Friday. Saturday, it is open from 9 a.m. until close, and Sundays from noon until close.

Anyone wishing to sign up for a tanning appointment, starting at $4 per single session and special rates for packages, or to make sure the store is still open later in the evening or afternoon, may call the store at 507-992-0038.

R Lee’s Emporium will be open Saturday, Dec. 23, and possibly Sunday, Dec. 24, for last-minute visitors.