Winona Airbnb highlights popular tourist spots at previous Video Vision store

Nov. 25—WINONA — When Michael Onstad's business plan changed, it meant the former Video Vision store would share a new limelight as an Airbnb — one that highlights the unique building and popular spots in Winona.

The

rental

near U.S. Highway 61 shares fictional moments in Winona's history: a giant squid in East Lake Winona, Bigfoot's enjoyment of Bloedow's Bakery, robots defeating aliens at a Sugarloaf Intergalatic Gas Station and a secret NASA base at Video Vision. The moments in history are marked with interior murals by

Winona artist Sarah Johnson

of The Joy Labs.

"We have a fun story going on in each room, we got a theme going in the entryway but yet it's still a very nice, clean place where you're not going to feel weird that you're staying there," Onstad said about the Airbnb location that opened in May 2022.

Signs in the rooms also encourage people to check out Winona Lake Trails and the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. The Winona ties extend to Winona Ryder movie posters and a giant Minnesota sign proudly representing Winona's rivers, donuts, bluffs, art, trails, canoes and history in the main entryway.

In a "backwards" journey, Onstad bought the property in 2019 before plans for another business to move in were finalized. The business instead became an Airbnb rental with four available rooms between the two floors. Guests can individually reserve the rooms or book all the rooms depending on their group size. The rooms are suited for two to four guests each.

"We're a business working town, we're going to have a lot of people traveling for work, we're going to have young couples, we're not really getting the big groups of people staying and if we do they can rent multiple rooms," Onstad said.

The building itself has long drawn interest, starting when it was constructed in the 1980s. The steel, more typical for agricultural buildings, "really (pushed) the envelope at that time" with the goal of having the building "stand out," Onstad noted of the original Video Vision owners, Doug and Mary.

"I really like the building, you kind of either really like it or you don't like it," Onstad said. "It's very unique, it's got character. I really dig it."

He also owns the former Sears store in downtown Winona and previously owned two college home rentals.

The exterior changes "mimic" the building's original character, such as using aluminum corrugated metal sheets to cover the blue stripes and AC unit holes that were added over the years, Onstad said. The building was built with recycled corrugated steel.

Whether people loved Onstad's idea for the building or didn't know what an Airbnb was, he said the people he met along the way were the stars of the project. He chatted with community members, passersby and the building's designer, who lives in South Africa.

As Winona's longest-remaining video store, from the 1980s to 2019, Dennis Darst of Video Vision enjoyed sharing stories. Onstad is working on "keeping the nostalgia" with movie elements, such as a guest book based on the movie checkout slips and VHS tapes for guests to rent.

"I have fond memories of going there and renting movies myself. And you know I remember ... a specific time my friend would maybe purchase movies from Dennis as well, very kind soul, great person. I think he connected a lot with a lot of people who were willing to give him time to do that," Onstad said. "He had a lot of return customers due to the fact of his generosity and kindness. And he was pretty proud of being one of the longest-running ones in the nation."

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