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Jean Kruft has purchased Lake George's Wigwam. The unique business has captured imaginations for decades, Lake George residents welcoming its return. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Classic Wigwam reopens in Lake George

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news Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

One of Lake George's most recognizable cornerstone businesses will re-open June 4 after a two-year hiatus that seemed endless to visitors.

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The Wigwam, purveyor of Native American crafts and quirky tchotchkes (small toys), comes to life in its original form on the corners on Highway 71 and Hubbard County 4 after being purchased last year by Jean Kruft.

Kruft grew up in Dorset and taught many years in North Carolina before returning home last fall.

She's a special education teacher in Bemidji, with family in the Park Rapids, Dorset and Lake Peysenske areas.

"There's been lots of community support," she said. "People have offered their time, their help, have stopped by to meet and greet," Kruft said. She was quickly appointed to the Lake George Business Association, where she chuckles that she rubs elbows with all the former Wigwam owners.

The store has essentially been passed from one Lake George business owner to another.

The Macalester College grad went east to obtain a doctorate in anthropology from the University of North Carolina.

After obtaining a Master's degree in special education, Kruft did the usual things, marriage, family, a teaching career and finally a career with the North Carolina Department of Education.

"I had always worked with children with special needs," Kruft said, of her choice to switch majors. She directed a North Carolina charter school for more than eight years.

A desire to be near her family drew her back to the area. She purchased the Wigwam in 2010 and the residence next to it she now lives in. A fellow Lake George business owner's father built the home in 1935.

Along the way she had dabbled in consignment sales. The Wigwam has invited local artisans to consign their goods as some of the inventory.

Because Kruft strongly believes in giving back, each consigner has been asked to donate a portion of their profits to a charity of their choice.

Consigners readily agreed and are supporting nonprofits such as the Lamplighters and the Headwaters Animal Shelter in Park Rapids.

The Wigwam will offer Native toys and crafts, some antiques, handmade baskets, jewelry and other collectible items.

Rustic outdoor furniture and chain saw carvings will be sold on the lawn area.

Its hours will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 2-6 p.m. Sundays. Kruft can be reached at 218-699-3129.

Memorial Day she will be busy loading inventory that currently sits boxed on her porch. Lake George residents have helped her clean and paint. The building, for having stood vacant, is in fairly good shape, Kruft said.

She can't wait to join her fellow merchants in reviving Lake George.

"I'll be open until Labor Day basically," she said.

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