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Welcome Stitchery now open in Blue Earth

Justine Hougen buys Illinois business, moves it to Minnesota

By Kevin Mertens - Staff Writer | Jun 21, 2021

Justine Hougen stands in front of her new business, Welcome Stitchery. It is located on the Highway 169 beltline, in the former Headlines Plus building

There is a saying that says “Find a job you like and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Justine Hougen believes she has found that job.

Hougen recently opened a new business in Blue Earth called Welcome Stitchery. It is located on Highway 169 in the former Headlines Plus building.

Hougen says quite a few people believe she bought and moved the business from the town of Welcome, in Martin County.

“Actually, I bought the business from a couple who owned the store in Crystal Lake, Illinois, and moved it to Blue Earth,” Hougen explains.

It all started with a road trip.

“My girlfriend and I went on a journey and traveled to Iowa, Indiana and Illinois checking out different cross stitch stores,” Hougen comments. “We got to Crystal Lake and I liked the town and I liked the store and expressed those feelings with my friend.”

But Hougen’s friend was not the only person to hear her state her feelings.

“The gal working behind the counter overheard what I had said,” Hougen says. “She spoke up and told me the store was for sale.”

It turns out the store was owned by an older couple who were looking to retire.

“I had picked up some supplies while at the store and stated I could not wait to get back to my hotel room and check out everything I had purchased,” Hougen shares. “The lady who owned the store told me she always felt the same way when she bought new supplies.”

One concern the owners of the Crystal Lake store, Monica and Lee Pratt, had was how close any other cross stitch stores would be to a store located in Blue Earth.

“Osage, Iowa, and the Twin Cities are the two nearest locations having cross stitch stores,” Hougen notes. “So we would be a good distance from other cross stitch stores.”

Cross stitch is a form of counted-thread embroidery in which X-shaped stitches in a tiled, raster-like pattern are used to form a picture.

“People who cross stitch are very passionate about their hobby,” Hougen states.

In fact, there is a channel on YouTube called Flosstube made up of stitchers, quilters, needlecrafters and designers.

When the deal was completed to purchase the store, Hougen and her husband Neil, their son Blaine and his wife Sam and their daughters Samantha and Brita, along with Hougen’s high school friend, Shelly (Gartzke) Kain, all made the trip to Illinois in March to pack up the store and move it to Minnesota.

“When we arrived back in Minnesota, Neil’s brother Craig and other family members and friends were there to help us unload everything,” Hougen says. “It was basically a transfer from one Midwest family to another Midwest family.”

Hougen comments her love of cross stitch and other craft ideas began at a young age.

“I started cross stitching when I was in high school,” she explains. “I originally learned from my grandmother and then Judy Cerney taught me more. I have always liked homemade items – things which were passed down from grandparents.”

The store opened the weekend of the Blue Earth Wine Walk on May 9.

“Neil played a big part in helping to get the displays set up and making the store functional,” she remarks. “Becki Steier and Michele Hard were also a big help. They both have experience owning a store in Blue Earth. It is still a work in progress.”

The store has more than just cross stitch supplies, according to Hougen.

“We have needle point, punch needle, diamond painting, Mill Hill kits and homemade candles,” Hougen offers. “We have seven-count fabric all the way to a 40-count linen. We have a nice variety of thread including cotton, silk, wool and hand-dyed.”

She explains cross stitch projects can be as small as an ornament while others might be as large as 24×30 inches.

Hougen says she has already had visitors from as far away as the Twin Cities and Rochester.

“Our grand opening is July 16-17 and we will be featuring two designers, Carolyn Manning and Hands On Design, who are well known in cross stitch circles,” she comments. “There is already a group of 17 people from Rochester signed up to attend the event.”

Hougen says she would eventually like to host retreats.

“I will wait until I get settled in a little bit first,” she says.

Hougen says there have been some changes in the way people cross stitch compared to years ago.

“Back in the 80s you had one project and you did not start another one until you finished the one you were working on,” she explains. “Now, many people have 30-40 projects going at once. It is a way to keep things from getting stale. It relieves boredom and they do eventually finish their projects.”

Prior to buying Welcome Stitchery, Hougen worked at Compeer Financial at their Blue Earth location.

“When I shared with my co-workers how I had purchased a cross stitch store, they were very excited,” Hougen says

“They said, oh my gosh, that is your passion. You have found your dream job.”

And because of that, Hougen may never work another day in her life.