In tiny Frontenac, Camilla and Me continues to turn heads

·3 min read

Jul. 23—FRONTENAC, Minn. — A pink building on U.S. Highway 61 in Southern Minnesota that has been catching attention just got more colorful.

The north wall of the Camilla and Me store building now has colorful peacock plumage thanks to artist Willow Gentile.

Owners Camee Dugstad and Cindee Dugstad say the new visage will help the vintage and resale store get even more notice. Cindee, Camee's mother, had the original idea to paint the building pink when the two shifted the antique business to vintage finds and clothing about seven years ago.

"I wanted people to notice (the building)," Cindee said.

Camee said she was uncertain about the idea at first. However, the flood of Instagram posts and comments from people who weren't even planning to shop but stopped to see the pink building proved painting the building pink was a bright move.

Frontenac is an unincorporated town of less than 200 people, according to the 2020 census. Camilla and Me relies on capturing attention on social media and traffic on the highway that passes by the building between Red Wing, Minn., and Lake City, Minn.

Gentile, who is working on opening a studio a few miles south from the store in Lake City, has been a regular shopper, visitor and social media booster at the store. When Camee decided she wanted a mural, her cousin suggested a peacock theme. Gentile was happy to offer her skills. Two solid days of work brought the bird to life. The stucco covering on the building made the mural a bit messier than Gentile is used to painting, she said.

"I kind of like having that rough texture," she said as she put the finishing touches on the work Tuesday, July 19.

"It sort of creates this shimmering look."

Camee said she likes being the talk of a small town.

"If you're not, then what are you even doing?" she said.

The resale is enjoying continued growth in business since opening in 2020 when retailers were able to open again after closing in the spring during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A combination of people improving their living spaces and younger people being interested in sustainable shopping have helped the business thrive, both Cindee and Camee said.

"Every year, it seems like we get more discovered," Camee said.

The two scour auctions, estate sales and other places to find items their customers would like. They try to keep their standards high and the store looking clean and bright.

"I ask myself, would I want to keep this," Cindee said. "That's how I buy."

Customers want to give old items a second life and recognize that vintage items tend to last longer than buying new, they said.

"They're reusing vintage clothes," Camee said. "They're looking for furniture and decor that's lived a life."

Vintage finds are also unique, Cindee added.

"There's not going to be something exactly the same," she said.

When retail stores were closed, Camee and Cindee took the opportunity to paint and refresh the store.

Camee said she appreciates vintage items thanks to her mom. Cindee noted her mother, Camee's grandmother, also had a taste for quality used items.

"She went to garage sales all the time," Cindee said.

"I guess it runs in the family," Camee said.