Spring Grove, Minnesota for all intents and purposes is an unassuming small town in the Midwest. This is a town that is built on community and tradition, a fact made obvious by the amount of residents gathered in the gazebo to set up their annual Christmas decorations.
The people here are welcoming and willing to talk to whoever approaches them, even strangers who are clearly out of town.
There’s a main street and a village hall, and like most people in small towns, it’s community members are incredibly proud of their heritage, in this case, Norwegian. The country’s flag is proudly displayed all around main street, even in the mural. Complete with a Viking statue dedicated to their ancestors who came before them, it is evident the people of Spring Grove feel that their heritage is something to be honored.
The amount of pride they take is laughable to Spring Grove resident Lucky Volkenant, 73, since according to him, there aren’t many people left in Spring Grove with Norwegian ancestry.
Lucky himself is German, and after making the trip across the pond, he originally settled in Wisconsin. While there he owned and operated a bar and grill, but couldn’t stand to be inside all day. He likes the outdoors and needed sunshine in his life.
Eventually Lucky decided to cross state borders and make his home in the land of the Vikings, though he dares to have a team picture of the Packers just outside the office. So, although his heart is true to the green-and-gold, Lucky considers himself a resident of Spring Grove. He and his wife Jean have owned the only laundromat in town for nearly 25 years; it is their home.
The laundromat, like the rest of the town is not what it appears; in fact from the outside, it doesn’t appear much like a laundromat.
A small garden grows out front, and off to the side sits a wooden box. Above the box hangs a sign, FREE TOYS, more dolls inside. There aren’t any toys in the box although at an angle it may appear full, but a quick peek inside reveals only cobwebs and rotting leaves.
The rest of the store’s outward appearance is likewise misleading. Only a gold metal sign hanging overhead legible to only pedestrians tells them what awaits inside. In black all cap hand painted lettering the sign says: LJ’s Laundromat AKA Doll World and Bestemor’s Home of Useables Wantables Collectables.
There are two possible entrances for those who dare to step foot into this collector’s oasis: a large set of concrete steps encased between the garden strip or a door to the side with easier access.
White washers sit in the middle of the room, dryers are stacked on one side, mirrors and faded images on the other, and hanging over the entire room from the 12-foot ceiling and walls are dolls.
Baby dolls, plastic dolls, cloth dolls and a few occasional stuffed animals.
“What else are you supposed to do with a 12-foot ceiling,” Lucky said.
Lucky ventures to guess there’s nearly 27,000 dolls around the store now and while he doesn’t know the particulars or story behind each he imagines that the donors do.
Their choice of decor gave the laundromat some local and statewide attention. In 2015, roughly 2,000 dolls had found a permanent home on Lucky’s ceiling, after a moment in the spotlight people started sending in their dolls. Lucky and Jean have received nearly 5,000 dolls since then.
According to Lucky, displaying the dolls falls under the categories as one of those things that once it begins, it has to keep going.
As sure as he is about his dolls, Lucky is equally unsure about the new president elect, Donald Trump.
“Humans make mistakes,” he said. “Obama is a good guy, but he made mistakes.”
The state of Minnesota went red this election season with a majority of the state voting for Hillary, but Houston County, where Spring Grove stands, went with Trump, clinching him 52% of the vote.
The fact that Houston County voted Republican is especially odd for the county considering that for the last two presidential elections Obama won on a landslide. He received 67% of the vote in 2008 and 50% of the vote in 2012.
Although Lucky feels people around town seemed to have calmed down over the results, he noticed that a lot of people were upset when the announcement initially broke.
Still among the anger, Lucky managed to find some humor in the entire situation, especially in the relationship between Trump and vice president elect, Mike Pence. He can’t seem to understand where Trump gets off telling Pence to be quiet considering the big mouth Trump has.
“For not being a politician,” Lucky said, “he acts like one.”
In his mind, Trump is as good as any other crooked politician.
The average Trump voter is often considered to be someone from a low-income background, who has little to no education. While it is possible that some Trump supporters fit this stereotype it is not necessarily true, still whether people voted for him or not there have been some strong reactions all around.
Not all aspects of the stereotypical image of an average Trump voter appear in the residents of this town.
Houston County has a population of around 18,000 people, with Spring Grove making up only 426 of that, and furthermore, the majority of the population includes people over the age of 45 and like the rest of Houston, it’s not very diverse. In fact, the population is 97% white.
The poverty rate is 12 percent but as far as Trump voter stereotypes go, most of the people in town are educated and they have average income of around 51,000.
Even though the majority of the county cast a Republican ballot, these people are not all the uneducated voters the media claims them to be; rather, they’re people who are ready for change.
At the end of the day Lucky believes that the choice was made and the only solution now is to deal with it.
As for now Lucky, is dealing with it one day at a time. While other Spring Grove residents spend the day outside setting up the gazebo area with holiday decorations, Lucky stands by the side door. There’s two customers in the shop and for the moment, this is as close as he’ll get to some fresh air.