Now in its 47th year in business, the Five Swans in downtown Wayzata has managed to do well in an age of big block, national chains.
"We have always listened to our customers and are willing to try new products, which meet their needs and desires," said Pam Witcher, the store's assistant manager who has worked for Five Swans since 1974.
This dedication to great service just won Five Swans the Exceptional Service Award for Excellence from the Wayzata Chamber of Commerce.
Five Swans was started in 1966 by Bob and Betty Jo Ogren and was located two blocks east of the store's current location at 315 E. Lake St. in downtown Wayzata. It specializes in home products, tableware and kitchenware. It was the first store in Minnesota to carry the Dansk line, the internationally renowned designer and marketer of cookware, tableware and other home accessories. Dansk was based on the designs of Scandinavian styles that came into vogue after World War II.
"Our name also has a connection to Scandinavia," Witcher added.
While traveling in Sweden decades ago, Ogren saw a stamp with five swans on it and discovered the five swans represented the five countries that make up Scandinavia - Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. He chose the name a few years later for his new store.
Lowell Zitzloff bought Five Swans in 2007. Today, his son Jeff serves as its quasi-manager and COO, but quickly admits it's Witcher and the rest of the staff that make the place run and be successful.
"I sign the checks and take out the trash," he chuckled. Zitzloff devotes the majority his time to his other company, Minnesota Battery.
Witcher said that while the demographic profile of the business is primarily women, more men are become regular customers.
"Men are starting to get more into cooking today," she added.
While the majority of the customer base is from the nearby area, people from as far away as White Bear Lake frequent the store that is roughly 3,000 square feet in size.
"We also have a lot of women who have been customers for years and many of them have grown daughters who when they get married, are encouraged by their moms to register with us for wedding gifts," Witcher said.
Zitzloff called Witcher an "icon" and praised her and the other eight employees for their work.
"They are simply great in working with the customer," he said.
Zitzloff said the store is broadening its price points and says the present location has big advantages because of its physical visibility.
While Five Swans does have a website, it presently does not have ordering online, but is looking into changing that in the future.