WORTHINGTON — Julie Dykema will mark the completion of 17 years in business in downtown Worthington on April 1, and on April 30, she will close the doors of Picket Fence on Main for good.
It was a bittersweet decision, but Dykema is at peace with it. She’s reached retirement age, although that wasn’t the only thing that factored into her decision. The COVID-19 global pandemic was devastatingly hard on small businesses.
A year ago, she and other retail shops were forced to temporarily shutter due to the pandemic. By May, Dykema began offering curbside service one day a week, and toward the end of that month, she was coming into the store three days per week.
“I kept my hours to 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and didn’t go back to regular hours,” she said.
She was anything but bored during the temporary closure, using the time to make more than 1,600 face masks. Many of them were sold at The Daily Apple, two doors down from Picket Fence, during the weeks her own store wasn’t allowed to be open. They remained a hot commodity once Picket Fence could reopen.
“If I wouldn’t have had that money from (The Daily Apple), I wouldn’t have had any income,” Dykema said. “That was the only thing coming in.”
The pandemic was one of the most challenging hurdles of Dykema’s years in business, though she also notes a lack of local people who shop in town.
“People would say, ‘I didn’t know you had this, but then they never come in here,’” she shared.
When Dykema first opened Picket Fence on Main in 2004, her goal was to provide customers with craft and needlework supplies no longer available in the community after the closure of JoAnn Fabrics in the Northland Mall. She’d worked for JoAnn’s part-time, in addition to being a part-time church secretary. She also worked at the bread store before deciding to take the leap into business ownership.
“I was in the building next door for a year, and then I moved here when Scrapbook Paradise went out,” Dykema said. “I started out as a craft and gift store and I kept expanding it. Then I got consignments — furniture and … handmade stuff by local people.”
Dykema filled the shop with many of her own handmade items over the years, with her one-of-a-kind gnomes being a popular item in recent months. She had her own workspace in the rear of the store to make things and do custom work for people such as patching clothes and hemming pants.
“I do all of the police uniforms — sewing their badges on and hemming their pants,” she said, adding that she will continue to offer those custom services through a drop-off and pick-up site at The Daily Apple.
“That’s an easy thing to do — to support my Social Security fixed income,” she added.
The Daily Apple also plans to carry the Trendy Owl merchandise after Dykema closes her store. The products include bags and handmade baby items, which are made by Dykema’s daughter. Another downtown business is in talks with Dykema to begin offering the greeting cards.
Meanwhile, Dykema is hoping to move the remaining inventory by offering a percentage-off closing sale that increases as it gets closer to her closing date.
Since announcing the closure, Dykema said she’s had a lot of people in the door — many who have become friends over the years. Her store drew shoppers from as far away as Marshall and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
“I have developed a lot of friendships,” Dykema said, noting how she loves to visit with people who come in.
That will be one of the greatest things she misses in retirement, though she’s assured many of her regular customers that she’s available to meet for coffee.
In retirement, Dykema also plans to see more of her grandkids’ sporting events, and she would like to do some traveling once her husband, Loren, retires from farming.
This summer, she and some friends are planning their own quilt shop hops with at least a three-day trip to the Missouri Star Quilt Company in Hamilton.
“You’ve got to stay three days so you can see it all,” Dykema quipped. “Hopefully we’re going to go this summer, when we’re OK’ed to go anywhere.”
The plan is to add to the stash she’s already built up during her years in business.
“I have a crafting stash of knitting, gnome stuff and gnome fabric,” she said, sharing the story of a recent visit by her granddaughter, who counted no less than 27 gnomes in one room of Dykema’s house.
“I said, ‘Shh, don’t let Grandpa hear that — he don’t need to know!’” Dykema said with her typical, jovial laugh.
As she reflects on her years in business, Dykema is thankful for the friendships forged. She said she’s happy about retiring, but yet sad to go.
“I enjoyed all the people I met,” she said.