The historical Whalan Depot in Whalan, Minn. is once again welcoming customers and travelers after decades of being closed up. Although the people that come to Whalan no longer come by rail, they do arrive by many other modes of transportation, and the Whalan Depot will give visitors and local residents another destination location.
Kim Berekvam, who also opened Loubelle’s Ice Cream & Sandwich Shoppe in Lanesboro, Minn., recently, has had plans to open the Whalan Depot for quite some time, even before she knew she would be opening the business in Lanesboro.
“I didn’t think that I would be going back to the restaurant business, but I really was still missing the customer connections and interactions,” explains Berekvam.
Her husband Rory’s family owns the Whalan Depot property, “So we talked about having something here that was close to home and that I could do more of my crafting and hobby things that I like to do and make that into a business with selling the things that we could create,” states Berekvam.
“Rory does a lot of woodworking and creating things,” she notes, and while thinking about what they would do during their retirement, they thought it would be a perfect fit to have his things for sale at the Whalan Depot. “So that’s how that all started,” she explains.
“I knew that I wanted to offer extra things in addition to what the pie shoppe would have to offer, so we came up with the ice cream treats and the drinks,” to begin with, says Berekvam.
The Whalan Depot now offers much more to customers such as pre-packaged food, snacks and drinks including Spring Grove pop and other drinks, bottled water and juices.
Ice cream treats include Load’s dundaes, Big Bopper ice cream sandwiches, Heath bars, crunch bars and more.
The fudge at the Whalan Depot is from Valley Fudge & Candy Company in Coon Valley, Wis., and “it has been a really big hit,” states Berekvam. Some of the fudge varieties available include Caramel Salted Peanut, Raspberry Truffle, Dark Chocolate Lavender and Chocolate Cheesecake.
“It’s mainly quick to-go things,” says Berekvam. Muffins, Earnest Energy Bars, Kickass Snack Sticks, trail mix, Miss Vickie’s potato chips, and kid’s candy necklaces are some of the items available at Whalan Depot.
And, salt water taffy! Over 20 flavors of salt water taffy! Berekvam is very excited to have such a wide selection of flavors for her customers.
Additional items will be added as Berekvam moves forward. She says she is trying to find ideas of what people are going to be looking for, and will add more inventory as she identifies additional needs or receives requests for items.
The country store feel of the front room at the Whalan Depot changes to more of an artisan shop feel when walking into the back room.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” explains Berekvam. Some things they make and some things they buy. Berekvam’s friend Kristi Vreeman decorated the back room. “She’s really good at that,” explains Berekvam. Vreeman makes gnomes so she has some of those for sale as well as photo cards at the Whalan Depot.
“Emily (Berekvam’s daughter) and I made candles all winter, so we have Whalan Depot candles and that was fun, so hopefully we can keep doing that. They are fun to make – really fun,” notes Berekvam. The Depot Candle Company has many intriguing scents available including Apple Ginger Crust, Lavender Vetiver, Bayberry & Silver Oak, Magnolia & Peony and several others. The candles are natural soy wax and are hand poured. Whalan Depot also carries Depot Candle Company scent melts in many varieties.
Local residents are very excited not only to have the Whalan Depot open, but also to see the building come to life once again with new paint, the windows open, colorful flower pots and lawn furniture in the yard, and most importantly, people gathering together once again.
Berekvam has already found that so many people were thankful to have a place to get a drink and an ice cream treat, and to take a break.
Berekvam says a lot of people have come in that are from Whalan or remember the depot and they really liked coming in and remembering what it looked like and seeing the floors and other improvements. People also enjoy the old photographs of the depot that are displayed.
“There is a lot of history in the building and it’s just neat to bring that back to life,” she states.
“As we go along, I want to do a bunch of landscaping and have garden things for sale, and maybe even I’ll do some of my own plants to sell,” notes Berekvam and thinking ahead, she adds, “in the fall we will probably have caramel apples, cider and maybe some pumpkins.” The original giant black stove will be fired up, making the Whalan Depot toasty warm while adding a bit of nostalgia.
Speaking of nostalgia, when you visit the Whalan Depot, be sure to take time to look closely at the windows. It was common for people to etch their names into the window glass, and those names still remain, as well as names written in the window frames. After being painted shut for decades, it was quite a surprise when the windows were opened to find names, dates and other information written in the window frames.
The Berekvam family has found many interesting and historical items while transforming the building into a new business. One of the more prominent items, found under boards and dust in the attic, is a very old railroad log-in book. The book recorded who arrived, what was on board such as coffee, beer, cheese and other things. “It’s pretty cool,” comments Berekvam.
Berekvam is very grateful, as always, for friends and family who are so supportive. “It’s friends and family that help me, because I can’t do it by myself,” she notes. She especially thanks her husband, who has really done a lot of work.
“I want it to be a really fun place to stop and rest along the bike trail,” explains Berekvam. It appears that the Whalan Depot has a great start at being that and so much more.
Whalan Depot is located at 722 Alley Dr. in Whalan. The plan is to be open seven days a week through the summer, approximately 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., but will be dependent on weather and how busy it is. It will not be open during the winter. For more information visit facebook.com/whalandepot and watch for the Whalan Depot website coming soon.