'Whalen Woods' store added at Perham's Thrifty

Perham's traditional downtown drug store has an entirely new merchandise line--and its as traditional as the old resort cabin many of us visited decades ago for our Minnesota vacation.

Perham's traditional downtown drug store has an entirely new merchandise line--and its as traditional as the old resort cabin many of us visited decades ago for our Minnesota vacation.

"Whalen Woods" line of custom log furniture and home decor now fills the south half of the Thrifty White Drug retail space.

Browsing in the northwoods displays of furnishings is like opening the door to a classic resort lodge from Minnesota's colorful resort history.

"The log bar is like a magnet...People walk almost immediately to it, and stroke the smooth surface," said Keith Ross, one of the three-member sales team at Thrifty's new furniture-decor department. The bar top, like other Whalen Woods table and counter tops, is treated with a virtually impenetrable "liquid glass" finish that is treated at the factory, said Ross.

The furnishings, both indoors and outdoors are all Minnesota made--from Minnesota wood, much of it harvested from the northern part of the state and the Iron Range.


While a few of the pieces, such as log-style bunk beds, can exceed the $1,000 price range, chairs, and tables and other pieces can be below $100.

"Its really surprising how affordable it can be--especially for the quality," noted Jennifer Ditterich, one of the sales representatives, who has a background in interior decorating. Rounding out the sales team is Angie Esser.

"We're pleased with what we've seen so far...customers have been very receptive," said Thrifty White manager Lee Omberg. Because of the exclusivity of the Whalen Woods line, Omberg believes the department is also another draw for all of downtown Perham.

"Any time you add a unique merchandise category, whether its in our store or another downtown merchant, it generates traffic for everybody," said Omberg. "And this line isn't in direct competition with what we presently have downtown."

The exclusive Whalen Woods merchandise, combined with other northwoods accessories from other manufacturers and vendors, include dressers, stools, chairs, benches, hutches, coffee tables and even entertainment centers. Smaller pieces include fireplace mantles, mirrors, towel racks, lamps and chandeliers.

In addition to the furnishings that can be purchased right off the floor, Whalen specializes in custom-made pieces to fit individual needs.

Whalen offers three different finishes. Clean, which is completely smooth, and all bark removed; "skip-peeled" which leaves some of the bark on the logs; and "rustic."

"We really want to build relationships with customers," said sales rep Ross. "We want them to show off their furniture to family and friends."


Thrifty has forged a business relationship with Whalen, a firm based in Pequot Lakes, that gives the drug store retailer exclusive rights at three Thrifty locations, including Perham, Walker and Alexandria. From these pilot locations, Thrifty may add Whalen Woods merchandise to other stores.

Adding a unique home furnishing department is a sign of the times, said Omberg. With the "big box" stores grabbing market share, retailers like Thrifty are finding new merchandise and creating a new niche. "We have to find a different path that makes sense...something that the big box stores don't do."

Thrifty's relationship with Whalen Woods was sparked by the firm's chief executive, Bob Narveson, who furnished his lake home with Whalen log furnishings. He was so impressed with the product and the family run company, that he decided to pursue Whalen lines for Thrifty locations.

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