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A selection of men's and women's clothing is available for all seasons, Dave Thomas ready to assist. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Mill St. clothier offers discount prices

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Dave Thomas and his canine cohort, Bonnie, are welcoming those in need of warm wardrobes at the newly opened Mill Street Discount store.

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The Park Rapids native has come full circle in his return to the Fish Hook.

For the past few years the former Boston resident traveled to 44 states, selling t-shirts, jewelry and other items at festivals and flea markets. "Wherever a tank full of gas would take me," he said of his circuit that wound from Minnesota to Florida, a social network forming along the way.

Come spring, he'd head north.

But after a heart attack last summer, "I decided to pull off the road and try to make a living in northern Minnesota."

He left Park Rapids as a child. His dad and owner of a body shop in Park Rapids, Jim Thomas, died six months before he was born. But he returned to spend summers with his aunt, Winifred Miller, developing a lasting affinity for the area.

"I can acclimate quickly," he said of the seasons. "Hunting and fishing are spectacular. It's an easy pace of life.

"And after 20 years in Boston, the last thing I want to see is a traffic jam," he said of notorious metro snaggles.

But launching a profitable business in a small town is a challenge, he admits.

"It isn't as easy as falling off a log," he joked of Minnesota's short season.

But he remembered his best business days were selling sweatshirts when the thermometer dipped.

"And where better to find cold than Minnesota."

His signature hoodies are now available for $5 at the shop, with businesses invited to add their logo for a nominal charge. Men's and women's jackets, pants and thermal wool socks at prices "cheaper than the Big Box stores" are available. "And the quality is better."

An arresting selection of women's dresses hangs in the window.

"Through the years, I made connections," he said of his network of wholesalers.

Although he's set up shop, he's not limiting his marketplace to the store. Thomas plans to continue to head to area venues, such as Muskie Days, Walker Crazy Days, Longville and other spots until Labor Day again next summer. And he'll soon be marketing his goods on eBay.

The store, located just north of the bike shop, is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday - "with super deals in prices and quality."

The store is located on Mill Street, which intersects with Highway 34 in Park Rapids.

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