Mary Gillespie has been in the midst of renovations to Granite Falls's newest retail shop for a couple of weeks. She would have the store, "Frogs on the Footbridge," full to the brim with antiques and local art, if only she could stop it from flying out the door.
"It's been great so far," she says of the initial support of the business. "Steady everyday. I wasn't sure what to expect."
It was back in 2000 that Gillespie, a Granite Falls native, moved back to her hometown after living overseas in the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain. With her husband, Muhammad Otaibi in tow, the two purchased the historic Holt House (also known as, Octagon House) where she has operated an antique shop as a hobby for the past decade.
In recent years, with both of their girls, Sarina and Luwaina Otaibi, residing and going to school in the United States, Gillespie's sojourns overseas have diminished providing her the time to become increasingly active in community organizations, the Granite Falls Historical Society and Granite Falls Riverfront Revitalization, both of which are full of fervent membership dead set on improving and showcasing the offerings of the town.
Like many community members Gillespie has long wanted to see the return of Granite Falls' former burgeoning downtown, but unlike most has taken it upon herself with a labor that is part love and part community service to help realize the change.
"I have long thought it would be nice to have a shop down here," said Gillespie. "I'm doing it probably 75 percent for me and 25 percent for the town."
Standing from inside the vacant Prentice storefront and looking out the window, Gillespie said she gazed upon the iconic footbridge and became inspired.
"When I came in here I saw this view of the footbridge I wanted to call attention to it because it's a really cool feature of downtown. I wanted it in the name somehow so I thought all kinds of things that went along with the footbridge and "frogs" just kind of stuck because it goes with the river and it's kind of funny."
There are already a few frog figurines that appear periodically throughout the store, and one gets the feeling that there could be quite a few more frog-type novelties by the time all is said and done. Just don't expect them to take the spotlight off the store's main offering of antiques, handmade items and local art.
"I try to keep things local. Local art, handmade items, up-cycled furniture––this up-cycled is a new word to me, it's not just furniture, it's taking something and making it neater than you started with."
The shop is presently arranged in such a way that the front room serves as an art gallery while the back is more of an antique shop. Gene Stukel, Brad Hall, Melanie Gatchell and Tamara Isfeld are a few of the local names that may be recognized, but there is jewelry and furniture and a plethora of other items from artisans located throughout the area.
Page 2 of 2 - "I think what has surprised me most is all of the cool things people make around the area. There are so many different vendors," Gillespie said.
The new business owner says she is just hopeful that she remains in the black with her venture and the community benefits from her presence. Gillespie is still open to additional art and antique vendors interested selling within her space. Based on the shop's initial reception, there's going to plenty of demand.
Frogs on the Footbridge is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.