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Wild Loon Outfitters lands on Main

A loon is calling on Main.

Wild Loon Outfitters began welcoming customers this summer, owner Uzi Monka having determined Park Rapids' diversity of businesses his call to land.

Monka was traveling the Midwest in search of a "nice town" for summer trade. Having worked in the Wisconsin Dells, he was attuned to the tourism industry.

He arrived in Park Rapids in January, the mercury having dipped to 30 degrees below zero.

"Almost nothing was open," he said. But the stores - candy purveyors and ice cream parlors - warmed his perception of the city.

"It's the right concept for a tourist town," he determined and found an available site. Cherie Lundberg works as an assistant.

Monka's landlord advised him of Park Rapids' claim to be the Loon Capital of the US, and a "loonatic" design began forming in his imagination.

Clients arriving at Wild Loon Outfitters have a range of choices to express proclivities - from "I survived the Heartland Trail," to affinities for area lakes and sports teams. He intends to develop standardized symbols for the area sports teams.

T-shirts and sweatshirts for kids to adults are available, with embroidered and decal designs.

"Our niche is people getting their own design,"

Monka explained. Clients are not limited to pre-determined messages but may find the apparel item and add a customized design.

In the event of a reunion, for example, personalized artwork can be designed for the occasion.

While clothing is the main line of merchandise, the store also features jewelry, shoes and souvenirs.

"We have left no stone unturned," Monka said. Plans call for adding more swim suits next year and plus sizes.

Monka is hoping to encourage Main street business owners to expand their evening hours in the summer.

"Evening is a logical time for tourists to shop," he said.

And to that end, the store is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. Come October, he plans to shorten the hours.

"It's been a fun summer," Monka said of the welcome reception the store's receiving.

And his hunch was correct; he's meeting third and fourth generations who call Park Rapids their summer destination.

Monka lauds the downtown remodeling initiative. "It's a step in the right direction."

But his focus is not merely mercantilistic.

"I'll start fishing soon," he said. "I'm going to take people's advice: If you live in Park Rapids, you need to fish."

Wild Loon Outfitters is located at 206 Main Ave. So. The store may be reached at 237-9800.